Intensive Care Unit Waiting Room Incident

Tilda & Daryl 2009

During early December, 2010, we were signing in about to begin Tilda’s visitation route at a local hospital.  While doing that, the volunteer at the front desk (who knows Tilda well) informed me there was a very large group of people in the ICU waiting room today and they were having a very sad day with a family member and if I could find an opportune time to work our way in, it might be heaven sent for them.  I assured her I would try if at all possible without being intrusive.

On our rounds, I stopped by the ICU waiting room 3 times over the next hour.  The first two times looked to me as though it was not good for me to enter.   On the 3rd stop, the cries of sadness had slowed somewhat so I let Tilda lead the way into the room as I followed.  I announced that this was Tilda, a therapy dog and that was all I could get out as Tilda immediately zeroed in on what I am guessing was the family matriarch (I would guess it was Grandma) and Tilda quickly went to a sit position on her own with ears fully perked, began scooting and wiggling  her way to the lap and into the heart of this sobbing lady.  The entire room was full of adults, no children, with no empty seats (probably around 20 people) and most were sobbing quietly.   Tilda focused on Grandma and had her crying joyful tears within 30 seconds as Tilda lovingly put her head onto the lady’s lap while looking up and gazing right into the lady’s eyes with her tail wagging with insistence (it was almost like Tilda was telling her to “stop for a moment and follow me”).  It wasn’t but a few seconds before the entire room was echoing with oooh’s and aaaah’s.  Tilda didn’t show any interest in anyone else, just Grandma.  The tension in the room relaxed, I could just feel it, so I finally spoke to get Tilda’s attention and asked her out loud if she cared to do a couple tricks for these fine people and she immediately turned around towards me and sat in a locked position and did her “give me 10” trick.  Then she responded quickly to “shake” (which she rarely does).  I thought to myself “wow, this is interesting.  Maybe I’ll just keep going and see if she will do some other things we practice now and then that never go very well.  Tilda is not into tricks much.  She immediately responded to “down” and laid flat on the floor with her head resting on her paws.  I then gave her the hand signal and said “over” and she immediately rolled over on her back in her pink belly position, just as precious as it gets.  By that time the room was in laughter and applauding while at the same time crying “happy tears” with the women mopping their eyes with tissues.   She did all those tricks perfectly using every effort she could to please which has never happened before, EVER.   The room suddenly became a different place and much of the tense feelings had disappeared momentarily.   I could feel that everyone had just one moment to release a bit and enjoy but yet I felt we needed to be respectful of their situation so we thanked the people and walked out.  On the way out, there must have been a dozen “thank you, Tilda’s”.  I won’t soon forget that one.  It is what this program is all about and what keeps me making the drive and taking the time.

For the short time I have been working with Tilda at this endeavor, I have already learned that these dogs are very, very special once they understand what it is they are supposed to be doing.  The amazing thing is that therapy dogs like Tilda do “get it”.  Most times they are very low key and just want to see their people friends at the hospital.  All they want is a warm massage rub, a loving pet or two, maybe a treat if Daddy allows.  But once in a while,  a “happening” comes about and it is INSTANT and it all happens so fast that it really jerks at the heart strings.   The key to the experience is to just “allow it to happen” and be ready for it at every potential visit.  I really have to concentrate and watch her moves carefully as she gives me the clues when its about to happen.  The “drive” that Tilda displays during these events is very purposeful and most intentional and there is nothing casual about it at all.  That is my cue to “shut up and watch carefully” as something very special is taking place.  That is the feeling I get each time I see one of these events.  In this case, Grandma was way across the room, nearly the farthest person from the door, but Tilda went straight for her and was staring her down with intent and kept pulling/scooting towards the lady.  The lady had her head down with her face in her hands so something went on there that cut through all that emotion and pulled it back towards the center.  I don’t know what that is, but I think the volunteer at the front desk was right;  it may have been heaven sent for those people on that particular day and moment for those folks.   I also know that one cannot “train” a dog to do this, they pick this up on their own if its in their nature to do so.

I get teary-eyed every time I think about that day.  It would have been interesting to know all of the background behind those people that day, but then again, this was pretty darn special without knowing a thing except for what one saw in the room and how the tensions changed with Tilda at work.   That’s her job and I see my job is to be there in her support and allow her to do it.  I have had several of these now and when I witness it, I feel I am the luckiest man in the world.  Life just doesn’t get any better than these times.

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A Day at Work for Tilda!

Tilda Enjoying Summertime

This story started in the Lobby of a local hospital as Tilda and I were handing out some doggy calendars to her friends as she was pictured as Miss February and we were so excited about that fact.  It was around the first week of December, 2010.  There were quite a few people that gathered around having a good time looking at the calendars and talking up a storm with lots of laughing and ooohs and aaahs while looking at all the dogs in the calendar.  After a few minutes a dear old friend walked up to me (I will call her Lucy) who works in one of the Doctor’s offices in the complex.  Lucy asked me what was going on and another lady nearby showed her the calendar and we all had a great chuckle.  Lucy then leaned over and whispered in my ear “I think it is imperative that you come visit with a patient and his wife at our office”.  I told Lucy “of course, right now or at a later time”.  She said “right now”.   I excused myself from the gathering and Lucy, Tilda and I began walking briskly towards Lucy’s office.

While walking Lucy explained that a 40+ young man was just examined and they found cancerous tumors all over inside of his mouth.  She stated the man was in a shocked state of mind and his wife was dreadfully sad and it might be that Tilda could bring a bit of a break to their grief.  As we walked, I noticed Tilda was not walking her normal meander gait which is always a half leash behind me.  She was walking between us with a purposeful gait and it caught my attention that she was walking as if she knew she had work to do and was needed.

We got to the office.  Lucy took us back to the patient exam rooms, walked us in where the young couple was and she introduced me and Tilda to the couple.  The lady was distraught and standing next to her husband who was sitting in a rather high exam chair.  The man was sort of “out of it” as if his mind was somewhere else and our presence didn’t impress him much I could tell.  Tilda was straight in front of his chair several feet away.  I addressed the couple by saying “Hello, my name is Daryl and this is Tilda, a Therapy Dog here at the hospital.  Would you like a visit from Tilda?”.  Well, Tilda is keen to those words after all these months of saying them.  Before I could do anything with Tilda, she sat down and was very erect with both ears perked up high as she quickly and nervously scooted towards the man’s knees which in the tall chair were about the height of Tilda’s head while she was sitting upright.  The man didn’t even look at her, he was looking down at his hands while fidgeting with his fingers.   Tilda was looking directly at the man’s eyes as she took one last scoot while at the same time raising up on her back legs just enough to allow her front right leg to raise high in the air and she gave the man’s left knee a brisk swat with her paw as if to get his attention.  The man had jeans on so I wasn’t concerned.  The wife looked at me with a smile with tears flowing and I could tell she was about to say something so I put my index finger on my lips as if to quietly say “shhhh” as I knew then that something was about to happen.  I let Tilda’s leash drop to the floor as I knew she was on a mission of some sort and trusted she could handle it.  All of a sudden that little white and skinny tail of Tilda’s began rapidly wagging back and forth across the floor as she still was sitting upright directly in front of the man’s knees with her ears perked up as high as they ever get.  Tilda then sort of repositioned herself a tiny bit nervously as the man raised his head to look at Tilda.  At that very moment, Tilda raised up on her back legs, stood tall while both of her front legs went high in the air and came down slapping the man on both knees like she was saying “listen up, you”.  In that position, Tilda leaned her nose into the man and he finally leaned over and petted her head with both hands and kissed Tilda on the nose.  Tilda immediately began incessantly smelling the gentleman’s mouth back and forth, back and forth several times.  Right at that moment, Tilda pulled back just a bit, finally lowered her ears and then began licking the gentleman’s hands which were now laying in his lap.  Tilda’s back legs were beginning to shake a bit from standing so long so I grabbed the leash and told her “Thank You, Tilda” and she sat back down and was just looking straight into the man’s eyes with the tail wagging again and ears down.

The wife witnessed all this also and then whispered to me “What was that?”.  I said “I don’t know.  I have seen her do these things and when I see it coming I just stand back.”  The lady then knelled down and gave Tilda a bunch of hugs and Tilda then paid attention to the lady for the first time.  I thanked the couple for their time and the man thanked me and said “That is a very special dog.  It is as if she can see right through and make things better for just a moment”.  I excused ourselves from the room and we left the offices.

Tilda was really dragging herself while walking back to the lobby.  I had to stop a couple times as she just could not keep up.  We were only half done on our rounds that day at this point but I already knew Tilda was done for the day.  I found a soft chair in the lobby while Tilda lay in front of me on the floor.  She rested probably 10 minutes or so and I could tell by her eyes that she was really, really tired.  I told her “let’s just head for the truck and we’ll go home now” and that is what we did.  She literally collapsed in the truck and slept all the way home.

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Tilda at the Oatmeal Festival

Tilda & Clown

Tilda was invited by the Boulder Community Hospital Therapy Dog group, called the Canine Corps, to attend and work the Lafayette Oatmeal Festival on January 8, 2011.  We arrived early at 7:15 am and after we received our instructions, we were ready to go to work.  Our job was to make the visitors to the large hospital trade fair feel at home and welcome.  We operated 2 dogs on each 2 hour shift for a total 3 shifts (6 dogs total).  Tilda and I spoke for the 8 to 10 am shift and the time just flew by.    The Quaker Instant Oatmeal fellow came by and wanted to pose with Tilda.  The costume didn’t bother Tilda at all.  She just sort of looked up at him as if to say “Oh, it’s just one of those Quaker Instant Oatmeal clowns, not a problem”.    We posed for more pictures with some other folks and their cameras and then we finally decided that we had work to do and Tilda was ready for the challenge.

Tilda in Her Children Position

One part of the trade fair was a place where kids could get fingerprinted, photographed and have ID’s made up (with parents permission of course).  This is a great idea and Tilda visited with the kids while they were doing their tasks which helped them feel a bit less intimidated and it sort of spread out their comfort zone a bit.  On a good day of visiting, if Tilda likes someone and is comfortable with them, she quickly responds to my command of “sit”, “down” and “over”.   She does that all especially well with children and they love it as it gets Tilda down to something below their level and it is not so intimidating for them.    Of course the children then begin to rub her belly and play with her legs and she loves that attention and acts as if it is her duty to give them this pleasure.   Her big brown eyes are wide open during the whole process.  Another interesting trait Tilda has is that if the adult will kneel down also, Tilda will put one of her front paws firmly on the adult as if to brace herself and yet letting the adult know that what is going on is all okay.  She is just starting to accomplish that effort in the above photo.

Tilda’s Leg on Mom (respectful order of love)

You can now see in the photo on the left, how Tilda managed to complete her braced leg to the adult.  She will stay like this for some time (sometimes 30 seconds, sometimes several minutes – I saw her go over 20 minutes once in the lobby of Longmont Hospital) and then she will use leverage from that braced front leg to roll her rear legs and tummy another 45 degrees so we have what I call “Pink Side Up” which is when her pink tummy is exposed and she throws her hind leg in an open stance.  The Pink Side Up command is a new command I am trying to teach Tilda.  We don’t quite have that one accomplished yet, but she is doing it about one time out of 5 now, so progress is being made.   Even if I do finally have results with teaching Tilda this new command, I doubt she will do it on command every time even though she knows what I want.  She has to feel comfortable with the situation surrounding her as she is making herself vunerable and it just isn’t going to happen if it’s not right.  You can see how much she was loving these two little girls and their mom also.  Keep in mind this is the first time she has ever seen these people.

Oh My! One in Front & One in Back

A good Therapy Dog has to be ready for nearly anything that could come about.  This photo shows a great test for Tilda.  I saw some things about to take place that could be a very stressful situation about to happen.  There was a delightful little girl behind Tilda who was not afraid of big dogs at all plus there was another small dog in front of Tilda wanting attention of Tilda.  In addition, there were lots of people standing close around so I put Tilda in a “tight sit” (that is to firmly tell her to sit with a lower voice, she knows the difference).  The father of the little girl told his daughter to hug the doggy and the small dog came in closer to see what was going on when this picture was taken.  Tilda held strong and never flinched.  As you can see in the photo, Tilda was more concerned about what the dog was going to do to her rather than what the child was going to do.

I need a break, Dad!

The rest of the two hours there was lots of fun also.  We walked around and saw all the displays of modern medical technology and ideas.  We even got to see a very large robot surgery machine that was operated by a surgeon which gave him super precision skills.  Tilda visited at least a couple hundred people that day and after her two hour shift, she was exhausted.  It was a fun day for the both of us and we once again learned how well dogs can relate with people if people will just give them the chance.

We love doing events like this as it is a learning experience for sure.   It is amazing to me how these dogs get so involved in their work.  Some people look at these dogs and think it is just a dog that loves pets and treats.   When I watch most of these dogs, I see a whole bunch more as the good dogs could get away with doing a whole lot less and still get the same reward, but they don’t.  They give it their all and try to make a connection statement if they can and are allowed to do such (which depends on lots of things going back and forth between human and dog).  It is very interesting and challenging work without a doubt.

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The Transitional Care Unit Lady Wanting Her Doggie!

Tilda Ready to Visit

This story emphasizes the importance of the work Therapy Dogs do and the roles they play in what might seem to be just an ordinary day.

Tilda and I were just finishing our round of visitations at a local hospital that morning. It was an extremely busy day with lots of visits with many, many people. I could tell Tilda was wearing down a bit and appeared to be overly anxious to go so we headed towards our coat locker to grab my coat and headed for the vehicle. We had another couple hours of visits to do at another hospital in the afternoon so thought she would need a good rest before heading in that direction. The temperature outside when we arrived on this cold morning was -6 degrees and Tilda was “high stepping” all across the parking lot as we came into the building. On our visits that morning, people kept asking me why we came on such a bitterly cold morning. The only thing I could think of to respond was “because we wanted to” which may have seemed a bit of a lame response, but it was the truth.

As we were heading down the hallway towards our exit, we passed by the Transitional Care area of the hospital. This is the area where some patients pass through for special attention or therapy before they are discharged to go home. Part of our job is to pay attention to what is going on around us at all times. This is for Tilda’s safety and to make sure we don’t miss anything as we are roaming around the facility. When we passed by part of the TCU area, suddenly I felt Tilda’s leash get tight as she had stopped behind me. I turned to look at her and she had her ears perked up high and looked at me as if saying “we need to stop here”. At that very moment, I overhead a therapist telling an elderly lady that she needed to stand up now and grab the walker so she can get mobile again. The lady was crying out loud saying “No, I don’t want to” and every attempt by the therapist yielded a similar response. Then I heard the lady say “I don’t want to stand up, I want my doggie”. Of course, that phrase is a bell ringing attention grabber for Tilda and I and we both were at full atttention. We turned around and took a look around the corner so we could see what was going on with the patient in the adjourning hallway. The lady was in a wheel chair and the therapist had put a walker in front of the chair and was asking her to stand and try to walk a few steps with the walker. The lady was really distraught over this request and obviously wasn’t going to do the task. The therapist was very patient and just kept trying to convince the lady that she needed to make an attempt so she could be prepared for going home. The therapist was standing between us and the lady so the lady did not see us as we approached the couple. When we were about 20 feet from them, Tilda and I stopped and waited. The therapist turned around and saw us, smiled, and made a hand motion for us to hold fast and stay put, so we did.

The therapist then asked the lady “did you say you wanted your doggie?”. The lady responded immediately that she wanted her doggie and didn’t like this idea of having to stand up when she couldn’t as it hurt too much. “I just can’t do it” she screamed. The therapist then said “Do you like all doggies?” and the lady quickly shook her head affirmatively. The therapist said to the lady “Look at what just came to see you” as the therapist took a step to the side so the lady could see Tilda. The lady screamed for joy and was clapping her hands in wonderment and repeatedly said “a doggie, a doggie, oh my, a doggie”. The therapist said to the lady “if you try to stand up and grab this walker, I will ask the doggie to come visit you so you can pet her. Would that work for you?” The lady’s face immediately took on a whole new concerned and dedicated expression as she grabbed the walker and scooted her body forward and straightened her legs and stood up with a smile on her face that would glisten any moment in one’s life. When she was upright, the lady just kept repeating “come doggie, come doggie” over and over again. The therapist then waved us forward and Tilda went towards the lady with gusto and a tight leash ahead of me (that is what she does when she is purpose driven). It was as if Tilda knew exactly what was going on and wanted to give the lady her prize of a few pets.

Tilda lifted her head up high so the lady could reach the head for petting with one hand while holding the walker with the other hand. The lady stood straight and tall while the therapist took a position on the other side of the walker. After 30 seconds or so, the therapist asked the lady if she could take a short walk with the doggie and she responded “Oh Yes!”. So the therapist was on one side and Tilda on the other with me walking tightly alongside Tilda and everyone walked down the hall together slowly and carefully.

It was at that moment when I knew the answer to the question of why I came there on this cold morning. To witness that beautiful and loving smile on that wonderful lady’s face while walking with Tilda was “what it was all about” that day. I reminded myself on the way out of the building how it is so amazing to me to view this set of circumstances and how these dogs can make a difference in someone’s life for whatever reason. If there is any magic to these things, it all starts by allowing it to happen simply by being there, paying attention and following the dog’s instincts. I dread the thought of what I would have missed if I would have wimped out and stayed home because of the cold. Tilda’s tail was wagging the whole time. She knew! On the way out, Tilda kept looking at me with that smiling expression as if to say “we did a good thing there, didn’t we dad?”

When we arrived at the vehicle, I praised Tilda and thanked her for doing such a wonderful thing for that lady. The best part of it all was feeling the same smile on my face as I saw on that lady’s face earlier. What a great way to spend a few moments with my best friend. I am a very lucky fellow!

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A Nice Lady Speaks to Tilda With Sign Language

Tilda’s Connective Stare

As I have said a few times before, one just never knows what the day brings when showing up with Tilda to do some therapy dog work. Sometimes it is simply a great event giving opportunities to meet a lot of very nice people (occasionally some not so nice also) and then once in a while that special moment comes out of nowhere grabbing at your heart strings until the hairs stand up on your arm and the tears begin to drip down your cheeks.

Tilda has visited several hundred people since I last wrote about an incident. When she works 4 days most weeks for a couple hours each day, there is a great deal to observe. While it is all very special most of the time bringing lots of smiles, laughs and loving time sharing, last Friday (Feb 11, 2011) was one of those special days when things were lined up perfectly for some very special moments. How those special moments come about is still beyond me. I don’t understand it and I don’t for one minute pretend to have a clue what is going on. I just pay attention while witnessing it and report it as fairly and accurately as I can.

As we were making our rounds, we stopped in the Intensive Care Waiting Room in the hospital. It was very dark in there and at first I thought there was no one around, but as my eyes adjusted to the light I could see one elderly lady sobbing in one corner of the large room and another man and wife couple on the other side of the room. The man was sleeping on a sofa and his wife was seated in a chair next to him. Since the elderly lady was having a sad moment, I led Tilda towards the other couple first. That lady saw Tilda immediately and had this wonderful smile on her face. As we approached the lady, I asked her if she would like to meet Tilda, a therapy dog here at the hospital. She immediately made it clear to me that she could not speak and could not hear and then motioned with her hands for Tilda to come closer to her which Tilda did immediately. I thought to myself that this was a challenge that I haven’t had to deal with before and was wondering how I could make the visit meaningful to the lady. I knelled down and lifted Tilda’s Volunteer Badge so the lady could read it, then I showed the lady Tilda’s collar tag from Therapy Dogs, Inc that says “I am a therapy dog”. The lady was then very excited and started signing to Tilda and Tilda immediate moved right into the lady’s lap with her head and neck and starting being very sweet to the lady. The lady then held Tilda’s head in her hands and they both just looked at each others eyes for what seemed like a good long time. Tilda normally doesn’t allow that for more than a couple seconds. It caught my attention wondering what was going on and just that fast, Tilda drew back, sat upright and took both paws and raised up in the air and gave her paws to the lady on her lap. That was my clue to watch closely. When Tilda does that, something is going on and it is a special moment. Right at that moment a doctor walks in, turned the lights on and wanted to talk to the couple. I tugged on Tilda’s leash to break up her endeavors and waved goodbye to the lady and she understood we were leaving and waved back. Tilda and I left the room to allow privacy for the doctor and family.

About 30 minutes later, we came back to that room. The elderly lady was gone, but the couple was still there only this time the man was awake and sitting upright next to the lady. About 10 feet from the lady, Tilda charged her in a very playful manner. It all happened so fast the leash went tight and I couldn’t keep up with her. At the same time the lady was signing to Tilda as fast as she could while sliding down off the chair and on to the floor. They both sat and hugged with Tilda putting one paw up on the lady’s shoulder and then began licking her face while the lady was hugging Tilda and lovingly wiggling her from side to side as if it were a “welcome home” event after a long absence. Then just as quick as this explosion of affection happened, it ended just that quick with both sitting on the floor facing each other and just staring into each others eyes again. Tilda was motionless, just staring, no expression except maybe a calming sort of expression. Then the lady began signing to Tilda again rapidly right in her face and Tilda just watched intently and never moved a muscle.  I couldn’t believe what I was seeing as this response with all that hand waving and gyrations no dog would sit still for that long. Then suddenly the lady stopped signing, put her hands on Tilda’s shoulders and they just fixated on each others eyes again. No movement from either, just a solid stare with their faces about one foot apart.

Then suddenly the lady started aggressively signing to her husband. She was trying to hurriedly tell him something and he motioned back to her with an expression on his face like “what did you say?” She quickly signed some more to him and then looked back into Tilda’s eyes again. All these moments, Tilda has not moved a hair—nothing, just sitting intently and staring. The man shook his head “No” to the lady and it looked to me like he did not want to do what she was asking him to do. I could tell now that she was insisting and was pointing at me also in between hand signs. The man finally spoke to me saying “I want you to know I don’t believe in this sort of thing, but she is telling me to tell you that this dog Tilda is speaking down deep inside her and it feels to her like a large burden has been lifted from her”. As the lady is now looking at me I replied to the gentleman to please tell her that I understand. He did so in sign (at least it appeared he did) and then I immediately gave her a thumbs up gesture and she immediately grabbed Tilda and gave her a big hug while tears started to run down her face. Well, that did it for me as the tears came rushing out and as I looked at her husband, he was wiping his eyes also. The lady jumped to her feet and gave me a big hug and clearly mouthed “Thank You” to me with her happy tears running down the cheeks.  There was no doubt about what this moment meant to her.  Tilda was then ready to go so we waved our goodbyes and walked out of the room. We both went to a quiet place in the hospital and took a 10 minute break. Tilda actually fell asleep in that short time.

Later, we returned to the room and it was once again empty. People come and they go in life and sometimes the paths cross.  Most likely Tilda and I will never see these folks again, but we both know that for just a few minutes something very special took place that was great for all involved.

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Tilda’s Incident No. 3 in the Intensive Care Unit Waiting Room

The Tilda Stare

Just when I thought it wouldn’t be possible for Tilda to have another interesting connection in the same hospital ICU waiting room for a good long time, it happened right before my eyes. I would think that the odds are so against this happening so many times in one room of the same hospital it had me re-examining exactly what I saw on Friday, February 18, 2011. After this occurrence that day, I went to a quiet area to sit down and contemplate what I just saw Tilda do. It was so dramatic to me as the previous incident was only the week before, exactly 7 days prior.

Now that I have had some time to think through each second as they occurred in the room that day, I know for a fact that what I saw was real and the energy around Tilda at that moment was so strong you could almost feel it in the air and so could the occupants of the room. I have been discussing this phenomenon with some other very knowledgeable dog people and I think we may have a clue as to what is going on with Tilda inside this room which I will explain in a moment. First I want to tell this beautiful story;

We were working our normal once per week shift at the facility and all in all it was a normal day with lots of visits to all kinds of people bringing many smiles to lots of faces. Tilda was in a great mood and very attentive to nearly everyone that had the time for her. As we approached the doorway to the ICU waiting room, I could see there were 4 people seated in the chairs along one wall and a Doctor was seated in front of them discussing some things with them. I pulled Tilda back immediately as those appeared to be family/Doctor discussions and not proper for us to interrupt. We wandered on to the next stop on our rounds and in about 20 minutes we came by the ICU waiting room again. This time there was nobody in the room, it was empty.

On the third round we stopped at the room again and the same family was there and appeared to be just hanging out spending time. As we entered the room I saw what looked to be a man, a woman and two teenage children. I assumed this indeed was probably a family. As I walked in with Tilda, I announced ourselves as the man looked at us and smiled. He acknowledged that he would love to meet Tilda so we headed in that direction. However, he was not the easiest person for Tilda to get to as this time the family was sitting in a half circle with a small coffee table in front of them and the man was in the middle of the group. All 4 people had there eyes on Tilda when we were still around 15 feet away from them, but suddenly Tilda’s leash tightened up and as I looked down at her, her ears were perked and she had already zeroed in on the man. She headed right towards him with that familiar driven intent and went behind the coffee table, stepped over the teenagers feet and pulled right up to the man and locked herself into a strong and attentive “sit”. I was off to the side over by the woman, holding the leash, and knew right away that something is going on here. Tilda’s eyes were locked on the man’s eyes and her ears still in perked position. The man leaned over, took both hands and begin to massage her ears and neck on both sides in a very loving manner with Tilda still sitting at full attention between his legs. Normally when someone does this to Tilda, she will lower her head and attempt to rub on them and love them up a bit, but at this moment Tilda didn’t move from her eye-lock position and just kept staring at the man’s eyes.

At that very moment, the Doctor came back in, moved the coffee table and pulled up a chair in front of the family and began discussing things. I softly said “Tilda, we have to go now” (while the man was still massaging Tilda aggressively with both hands. I gently tugged on the leash as that is the signal to Tilda that it’s time to move on. Tilda would not budge from her position or look at me at all. The man looked up at me and whispered in a low voice “Please let her stay” so I just slightly turned my body away from the group but kept my eye on Tilda for her safety while the Doctor continued to speak. Then suddenly, the conversation went towards a very unhappy prognosis concerning a family member and I just kept saying to myself “I shouldn’t be here, I shouldn’t be here” and I then looked at Tilda and she was still in her intent staring position, nothing had changed. I tried to tune out the conversation but that didn’t work well either. Suddenly, the man lowered his head and began weeping with his hands motionless yet still grasping Tilda’s head in an affectionate manner. Tilda just kept staring at him. The woman looked at my face and saw my concern and she just motioned to me that it was okay as by now I think she saw this special moment also. By this time the gentleman’s sobbing turned into crying and at that very moment, Tilda took her right leg and raised it up very slowly and lovingly and put her paw in the gentleman’s lap while staring at his face. His hands were still around her head. He didn’t respond so she lowered her leg and repeated the maneuver again and this time he saw the paw and said “Oh Tilda, you are so special”. The Doctor was done talking but he didn’t leave and watched also. The man leaned way over and hugged and kissed Tilda and she began licking his face, then put her paw back up on his lap again in a reassuring manner, all while still staring him in the eyes. The man was smiling and wiping away his tears and I tugged on the leash and quietly told Tilda “it’s time to go, Tilda” and she immediately turned and was ready to leave. Tilda took about 4 or 5 steps and then turned her head back to look at the man again with her tail wagging and held high. The woman looked at me and put both her hands over her mouth in a gesture indicating she was overwhelmed by what was going on here. Just at that moment, the man looked at me and said “Thank you, sir and thank you, Tilda, for being here”.

As you might imagine, the goosebumps on my arms were now almost welts and again I had chills running every which way. In a broken voice I politely thanked the group and we left the room with the Doctor following us out the door. Just as the Doctor and us were about to split up and go our separate ways, he said “thank you” which caused me to turn around and say “you’re very welcome and thank you for what you do”.

That is the end of the wonderful story. An interesting afterthought for me in thinking back through these moments was that Tilda never paid any attention to anyone else in that room (the other 3 family members). She totally ignored them which is not her normal style at all. She zeroed in on the man as if she knew he would be the one needing her assistance and reassuring attention and she was very dedicated to that effort. Whatever mystical thing occurs during these times (and I call it that as I don’t know what else to name it), it appears to me that Tilda knows what she is doing with her soul-searching stare being almost spiritual in a certain way. But, the question is WHY is this happening in this room so often? That question puzzles me immensely and the only reasons I can come up with (us humans have to understand everything, you know) is the following:

The room is dimly lit and is in an older facility. That room has been there for a very long time, must be decades now. Being a room where families gather in times of caring support, stress, happiness, quite often sadness and many times an area of Doctor visits bearing not-so-good news as it was in this case. What I am trying to say is this room has witnessed thousands, if not thousands many times over, of very emotional conversations with many of them causing people to re-examine their own life reaching out for help with the pain or joy, whichever fits the circumstance. A possible reason Tilda does this so often in this room is that she senses this aura when entering that room and is on alert and immediately searching for whatever it is she keys in on. It is also important to know that no food or treats are passed to Tilda before, during or after visits to this room. Tilda is doing this from her own initiative and that is indeed what is “mystical” about it. I am such a lucky fellow to witness these special moments. Thank you, Tilda! I really am trying to understand.

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Dogs Assisting Kids With Wellness & Growth


Recently, I was most fortunate to witness a wonderful dog program being conducted at Skyline Vista Elementary School in Denver.  This program is assisting children with special needs and it brings tears to the eyes to observe how these dogs take their work so seriously.  I was extremely impressed with the program and asked Jennifer Lundman if she would be so kind as to write a short summary of what her and her dog, Luna, are doing for these children.  Following is her entire report.  Thank you Jennifer Lundman and thank you, Luna, for what you are doing:


Skyline Vista Elementary School

Dogs Assisting with Wellness and Growth

D.A.W.G. Project

Jennifer Lundman, MSW, LCSW

Two Bears Pet Services, Inc.

The DAWG Project (Dogs Assisting with Wellness and Growth) at Skyline Vista Elementary School was created in 2007 as an intervention for students with needs beyond the ability of a classroom teacher to meet in a standard day.  It has served for several years as a classroom and Special Education resource for students who need non-traditional instructional supports.  Its intent has been to assist in raising student performance of at risk students.

In recent years, research on the human-animal bond has shown that children can benefit from specific interactions with an animal in the areas of self-esteem, empathy, social interactions, and behavior.  In fact, some emerging research in the field of the human-animal bond indicates that behavior extremes, such as aggressiveness and hyperactivity, can be decreased when regular contact with an animal is provided.  The DAWG Project provides an intensive intervention in a school setting, measured through treatment plan goals or Individual Education Plan goals, to students with identified behavioral or emotional needs that impede education and academic success.

The intent of the DAWG Project is to identify a specific student need and work to increase their skills in that area using the therapy dog as a modality.   Currently, the main component of the DAWG Project is agility work, under the guidance of trainers from Two Bears Pet Services, with two trained therapy dogs.  The students learn how to train the dogs to complete agility tasks and then participate on agility courses.  This training and structured activity with the dog helps aid the development of concentration, focus, and problem-solving skills.  Students who have participated in this intervention have experienced increased self-esteem and confidence as well as reduced behavioral issues in the general education setting.

Goals of the project

1.     Incorporate animal assisted interventions into the school setting to address the needs of struggling students

2.     Incorporate an animal into mental health work with disabled and at-risk children

3.     Utilize animal assisted therapy and activities, such as dog agility training, as modalities for treatment of students with identified mental health and/or behavioral needs.

Research to Date

Success of the DAWG Project is measured in several ways, including a pre and post-assessment from the referring teacher, a self-assessment done by the student at every session, goals set by the student at each session, and a measure of emotional state at each session both before and after working with the dogs.  In the last three years alone, over 40 children have been served through the DAWG Project and data collected over the last two years has shown the following gains:

Overall Rates of Improvement, 2008-2009:***

(Determined by pre and post assessments given to teachers)

Area of Assessment Pre Test Average


Post Test Average


Self Esteem 1.5 2.9 1.4
Self Confidence 1.7 2.8 1.1
Paying Attention 1.9 2.4 0.5
Following Directions 2.0 2.7 0.7
Solving Problems 1.7 2.3 0.6

Overall Rates of Improvement, 2009-2010:***

(Determined by pre and post assessments given to teachers)


Area of Assessment Pre Test Average


Post Test Average


Post Test





Self Esteem 1.9 2.7 3.2 1.3
Self Confidence 2.1 2.8 3.2 1.1
Paying Attention 2.4 2.9 3.1 0.7
Following Directions 2.6 2.9 3.2 0.6
Solving Problems 2.4 2.7 2.9 0.5


4:  Student is exceptional in this area and could mentor another student about it.

3:  Student does well in this area and meets classroom expectations 80% of the time.

2:  Student is working in this area but needs reminders and help sometimes to meet classroom expectations 50% of the time.

1:  Student needs a lot of assistance in this area and struggles to meet classroom expectations 50% of the time, even with help.

Overall Rate of Affect Change for Students in a 4-session Intervention in Spring 2010:**

(Determined by self-assessment from each student before and after participating in a session)


Dog Session


Dog Session

Session 1 7.3 9.6 2.3
Session 2 7.5 9.6 2.1
Session 3 7.8 10 2.2
Session 4 9 9 0
OVERALL 7.9 9.6 1.7

**Scale:           1-10 (1: unhappy/mad/sad; 5: okay; 10: awesome)

Measured on picture scale by each student participant once BEFORE session and once AFTER session

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The Lady With a Secret to Share!

Tilda & Her Pet Kitty

Tilda and I were visiting a facility a few months ago where people from a nursing home were all gathered in a community room listening to beautiful piano music being played by an individual on a piano.  As we walked by this room, it grabbed our attention as the music was spectacular and all around the area were elderly people in their wheel chairs lined all around the room who were attentively listening to the wonderful songs of the past being played.

As we were standing nearby, I noticed a lady seated on a sofa chair in the room who was trying to get my attention so Tilda and I walked over to her and bent down so she could whisper to me that I should feel free to walk Tilda around to all the guests as they would really enjoy meeting her.  I told the lady we would do that immediately.  So Tilda started cuddling her way into each wheel chair meeting this person and that person, carefully making her way in between the obstacles.  It was lots of fun for her and every stop was greeted with a very big smile of approval.  Tilda was very happy waving her white tall as if it were a flag blowing in the wind.

There was one elderly lady way in back of the pack who was also sitting in her wheel chair.  This lady was motioning to me as we came closer to her that she wanted us to come see her so I steered Tilda in that direction.  After Tilda pulled up to her chair so the lady could pet with both hands, I could tell this lady dearly loved dogs.  I bent down so my face was at the lady’s level and remarked “you love dogs, don’t you?” and she shook her head yes.  She was very lovingly stroking Tilda’s head and messing with her ears which went on for quite some time.  Every now and then the lady would look and me and smile as if she had something she wanted to say but was hesitating.  I finally asked her if she ever had a dog of her own and she said “yes, many years ago”.  She went on to say that not having a dog now is one of the things she misses most.  She then said “and I miss my little Frankie the most.  Frankie was……” and then she quickly stopped.  I leaned over and asked her “What about Frankie, was he your dog?”  She shook her head no and just kept looking at me several times as if she wanted to tell me something but was holding back.

All those minutes went by and she continued to fondle Tilda with loving eyes and soft pets.  I had straightened my back by standing up again as it was beginning to ache a bit from bending over.  The lady then looked up at me and used her index finger to motion for me to bend down to her level again, so I did.  She whispered in my ear “Can you keep a secret?”  I told her that it depends on what the secret is.  She replied “well, you can tell my story but please don’t use my name or tell anyone where I live or I might get into trouble”.  Again, I repeated that it depends upon what the story is but I would be happy to listen if she felt like it.

The lady immediately started telling me that when she lived “at home” there were some nice neighbors next door who both worked during the day and weren’t home.  They had a small dog which she said was a Boston Terrier which during the warm weather days, they left in the back yard which was fenced in.  She said “I used to go play with the dog through the fence during the day as it was so sweet and once in a while I would give it a small dog treat.  One day I told the neighbor lady that I really liked their dog and that if they wanted me to take care of the dog during the day while they were away, I would love to do that for no charge as I love dogs and would appreciate the companionship.  The lady declined my offer and said that the dog was very active and might get in the way causing me to stumble and hurt myself and it was best if the dog stayed at home.  I was sad but said nothing and respected her decision.”

The lady then told me she quit going to the fence and quit giving the dog treats as she didn’t want to cause trouble.  She said the dog would whine now and then wanting her to come over but after a while it stopped.  She went on to say “Then one day, I was sitting on the step of my back porch getting some fresh air and I heard something jump up on the porch and here it was the neighbor’s dog which came over and laid down beside me.  I petted the dog a few times and then he crawled in my lap and almost went to sleep while I was petting him.  After a while, I put the dog on the porch and went into the house to get him a drink of water and a treat.  When I came back outside he was gone and as I looked up into the neighbor’s back yard, there was the dog again, back home and safe.”

I told the lady that obviously this dog really wanted to spend time with you.  She replied “Yes, I know he did.  In fact, he would come over every day that I sat outside for a few minutes and I finally discovered a hole under the wire fence that he had dug which he passed through each day to come see me for a few minutes.  He always came over for a drink of water and a treat and then we spent some quality time.  I named him Frankie as I didn’t know the dogs name and he seemed to like that name just fine.  This went on for months during the warm time of the year and then in the wintertime, he was locked in the garage so I never got to see him.”  I asked her why she didn’t want me to tell anyone her secret and she answered “because I don’t want to get Frankie in trouble as we loved each other very much.  He was very special to me.”  Later in the conversation, she did give me permission to document the story as long as I didn’t reveal her name or address which I didn’t know anyway.  The lady ended our conversation by telling me “I really, really miss my Frankie and nothing would be better than to spend a couple hours with Frankie.”  I asked her what year that happened and she thought it was around 1995 or somewhere in there.  We said our goodbye’s to the lady and she had this major big smile on her face that I will never forget.

Now whether this was a true story or simply a fantasy story, it didn’t matter to me.  The moral of the story is this lady had a vision of what might be only that or could have been a very special time in her life with a dog named Frankie.  Frankie may have been a real dog or it may have been her imagination, but to her it all was as real as if it were yesterday in her back yard.

Dogs continue to supply us with fond memories even after they are long gone.  This lady was clear proof of that fact for whatever reason.  Frankie had to have been a very special dog that saw a special need and the beauty part of it all is that the lady saw the same needs in Frankie.  Life is good when there’s a dog involved.

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The Incident on the 5th Floor

Tilda Ready for Work

The lady and I visited about the situation for a while afterward.  She repeated that her Dad loves dogs and just knew he would know there was a good doggy there for him.  She too said she couldn’t believe what this dog had done and asked if she was trained to do this with patients.  When I told her absolutely NOT and that what Tilda did was all on her own merit, she was totally awestruck with one hand in front of her mouth to fight back the tears.  It was quite a moving moment for the both of us.  After that, Tilda was really tired so I took her to the waiting room on the 5th floor and I sat there while Tilda napped on the floor for a while.  That was the day the Planetree tours were going on and in about 30 minutes a couple buses came in and Tilda met most of the people as they came in the lobby of the hospital and was her normal self again.  I then thought we would finish her rounds for the day, but Tilda was totally spent so we just called it a day and punched out.  She slept through the drive home and the rest of the afternoon after that experience.

Looking back at this event later that day, it was the look in Tilda’s eye and her body language she was demonstrating while I was arranging the chair beside the bed.  It was like she was telling me “I get it, just be quiet and allow me to do it”.   That look caught my attention and again, I knew this was going to be special from that moment on.  The man never opened his eyes except once when he first felt Tilda’s ears and then only he looked at the ceiling with a smile on his face.  I am so fortunate to be part of those special moments!  They have to happen all by themselves and one can only pick up on them if one is paying proper attention.   I will never know for sure what was going on there, but whatever it was, I am honored to witness it.

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Tilda Is Longmont United Hospital Pet Therapy Nominee of 2011


Little did Daryl Holle know what lay ahead when he and Tilda, a female German Shorthair Pointer/Bloodhound mix, adopted each other at the Longmont Humane Society seven years ago. Tilda’s ability to search for soulful connections with those who most need it makes her unique among her fellow canines. When Daryl noticed this special gift several years ago, he took the steps to get her enrolled in the Pet Therapy program (TAILS) at Longmont United Hospital. Tilda has had such success as a therapy dog that she now works two days per week at LUH, plus one day per week each at three other Boulder County Hospitals.

One of Daryl and Tilda’s goals is to put a smile on the face of patients, family, staff and visitors to the hospital, whether it is during an official visit or simply passing by.  Daryl carries a clicker-counter and counts each smile he sees as people gaze at Tilda. She is averaging over 550 smiles per week!

Tilda has had a dozen or so very intense connections with people. Daryl has learned to recognize the body language prior to these events and does not interrupt that process, because Tilda handles it beautifully. One day, the two of them were getting on the elevator with four ladies, including one with an obvious physical affliction and other special needs. The woman’s arms were shaking uncontrollably and her shaking head was tilted upwards with eyes a bit unsteady. As the doors closed, Tilda immediately turned her body towards the woman, who didn’t see her, but Tilda latched onto her intently with ears perked and serious intensity. Daryl noticed that her little tail was wagging very fast on the floor. When that happens, he knows that Tilda is about to do something wonderful, if she is not interrupted. One of the other ladies happened to glance down at Tilda, just as she took a small “scoot” towards the afflicted woman. The rest of the women looked at Daryl with puzzled looks, so he quickly put his finger in front of his lips to signal them not to say a
word. Tilda took several more scoots towards the woman, whose hands were moving frenetically, but she managed to lick one hand as it passed by her head. The lick caught the attention of the woman as she guided her head down to see Tilda. Tilda then raised both of her front feet and sat up on her hind legs trying to get the woman’s full attention by propelling her paws at her. Finally, when the woman saw Tilda, she just sank down on her knees in front of her, gave her a big hug, and they both ended up on the floor. As the elevator arrived at the 5th floor, Daryl looked up at the other ladies’ faces. They all had their hands covering their mouths in amazement and tears streaming down their faces.

This is only one example of the healing moments Tilda has shared with the people she connects with. Other compelling stories can be found in her blog on her website at

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My Friend Jake and the ICU Waiting Room Visit

The following incident is a report written by Margaret about her dog, Jake.  They are a therapy dog team in Boulder County, Colorado:


Jake is a 7 year old Rottweiler that thinks he is a lap-dog. He adopted Margaret and her family when he was about 1 year old. Jake was rescued from a situation where he was neglected and hasn’t looked back. He is a loyal and loving dog and totally enjoys getting petted by anyone he meets.

Jake got to visit someone on the cardiac floor at Longmont United Hospital in 2008 and absolutely loved the whole experience. This one small visit to a friend led to Jake becoming a fully registered therapy dog in February 2010.

Jake started visiting at The Bridge Assisted Living and Exempla Good Samaritan Medical Center in February and March of 2010. Jake joined the TAILS program at Longmont United Hospital in December. He loves visiting so much that he expanded his opportunities for getting petted and getting treats to Avista Adventist Hospital in early April of 2011.

Jake has had some wonderful experiences at the places he visits and recently had an awesome encounter with a wonderful lady in an Intensive Care Unit waiting room. Normally Jake heads straight for the reception desk where he knows he will get a treat or two – today was much different. As soon as we entered the doorway I saw a group of four ladies surrounded by pillows and blankets. It was obvious that they had been there for a while. Jake usually heads for the closest person but today he made a beeline for the one lady that was the furthest away.  When he does this, I know we are going to have a great visit. As soon as this woman saw us coming she started crying and reached out for Jake. I didn’t need to ask if she wanted a visit, I just stood back and let the scene unfold. This was one of those times when I wish I could become invisible and just let Jake do what he knows he needs to do. At this point, Jake didn’t even acknowledge the three other women, he focused on this one lady and gave her kisses and sat down right in front of her. After a couple minutes when the lady stopped crying and began talking to me, Jake greeted the other three women and then went back and sat down in front of his new friend again. As she kept talking he laid down right at her feet and put his head where she could reach him easily. As she talked and told me the story of how her husband of 17 years was in ICU and in a medically induced coma, I knew why Jake went to her. What started as an asthma attack quickly turned into a life threatening event and her husband might not make it. She went on to tell me about the problems his family is causing and how they are treating her. The whole time she petted Jake’s head and ears. Occasionally she would start to cry and Jake would sit up so she could reach him even better. When she would calm down again, he would lay back down at her feet. I know all three ladies with this woman knew the whole story she was telling to me and Jake, but it was obvious that she needed to talk it out again. Jake and I were honored to be there for her.

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Once In A Blue Moon

I am so excited to tell this story.  It has the makings of the most wonderful Tilda Dog Blog ever.   On June 3rd, 2011, the Volunteer Services Directors, Coordinators and therapy dog program leaders from four Boulder County hospitals gathered in a private room in a Longmont cafe for a recognition celebration honoring Jan Fincher and her dog Katie plus Daryl Holle and his dog Tilda.   The hospitals represented were Avista Hospital in Louisville, Boulder Community Hospital in Boulder, Exempla Good Sam Medical Center in Lafayette and Longmont United Hospital in Longmont.

Tilda and Daryl

The purpose of the gathering was held very confidential.  Tilda and I knew something was going on as we were asked to show up at Chautauqua Park in Boulder to meet a portrait photographer in front of the Boulder Flatirons for a picture taking session.  We also received an invitation in the mail from Julie Adams, the Volunteer Director of Exempla Hospital, to show up at the cafe at 3 p.m. on June 3rd.  I questioned everyone in the Volunteer Office at each hospital as to what was going on and all I could get in response was “none of your business right now” or “you’ll have to wait and see” and many times absolute quiet followed my question.  Tilda even tried her best to break the silence by sitting up straight in front of the organizers and begging for an answer (and maybe a treat if she was lucky).  Nothing, no comments, absolute secret that was well kept.  If I ever needed to tell someone a secret, I know first hand it would be safe with these people.

At the celebration, Pat Dimond, who is the Volunteer Director of Boulder Community Hospital and also now President of the Colorado Association of Healthcare Auxilians/Volunteers, stood up and talked about something she called “Once in a Blue Moon Award”.   The following wonderful story was written and told by Pat:

The origin of the elusive “Once in a Blue Moon” award by Pat Dimond

Back in September 2000 an older gentleman came into the Boulder Community Hospital Volunteer Services Office.  He sat in a chair and said he would like to volunteer.  He said he would do anything that needed done.  Then he started to softly cry.  His wife had just died and he knew he needed a reason to get out of the house.  He was 88 years old and lived with his son and daughter-in-law.  He didn’t want to be a burden and needed to be productive.

He became our “dispatch” mail service volunteer.  He volunteered Monday through Friday – rain or shine.  The only thing that would keep him from coming to volunteer was 1) an ice storm, 2) a trip to visit his other son in North Carolina or 3) a scheduled gambling expedition to Black Hawk.  Once, when his daughter-in-law was recuperating from surgery and his son suggested he stay in North Carolina for a bit longer, he called, arranged and paid for a temporary room at an assisted living facility because the people at the hospital “need me”.

He was a man of routine – he would come in every morning promptly at 8 a.m. – go to the cafeteria and have his breakfast – oatmeal or cream of wheat and toast.  Then he would pick up his mail cart and do a “round” visiting all the departments throughout the hospital.  This would take him until 9:30 a.m. when it was time for his break.  He would head back to the cafeteria for a cup of coffee.  15 minutes later he was ready for his second round.  Lunch was at noon.  Lunch was  30 minutes – no shorter – no longer length of time.  He always had an entourage surrounding him.  After lunch he would come to our office or another one to help with mailings or other projects.  At 3 p.m. he’d put on his coat and tip his hat and say “Goodbye ladies.  See you tomorrow!”

He knew everybody at our Broadway campus by name.  He knew who was a new employee, who was retiring; who was on vacation (and where); who was sick; who was getting married, having a new baby or grandchild… He knew because he truly cared about every person he met.  And everyone loved him in return.  He was everyone’s father or grandfather.

In 2008 he suffered a stroke.  Even though he was a Kaiser patient he got special permission to stay at BCH because we were his family.  When he was transferred to the Inpatient Rehabilitation Unit, he called down to our office – he was bored.  We would take work up to him.  The therapists even retrieved his mail cart to help him gain his strength and practice walking – much more effective than a walker!

2009 saw several more strokes.  It got harder and harder for him.  Then, on New Year’s Eve, 2009, he left us – on the night of a blue moon.  We mentioned at the time how appropriate it was for him to take his leave that night because a person as rare and special as he was only comes along once in a blue moon.

We held a memorial for him at the hospital for the employees who wouldn’t be able to attend his funeral.  One of the staff members suggested that a special award be named for him – the “Once in a Blue Moon” award.

We think it’s very appropriate that all four hospitals in Boulder County came together to honor two rare and special volunteers, Jan and Daryl and their four legged partners with this award. [End]

What a terrific and humbling honor this has been to receive this Blue Moon award:

Once In A Blue Moon Award for Daryl & Tilda

In case you are wondering what a “Blue Moon” is and how often it occurs, here is a clipping of a newspaper article written in December 2009 just before the passing of Pat Dimond’s referenced Volunteer:

“THERE will be a blue moon on Thursday as New Year’s Eve revelers welcome in 2010 – the first time since 1990 that a blue moon has coincided with the end of the year.

A blue moon – the second full moon in a calendar month – happens only every 2½ years on average. This month, full moons occur on December 2 and December 31.

Astronomer David Reneke from Australasian Science magazine said it was rare for the event to happen on New Year’s Eve – another blue moon will not fall on the last day of the year until 2028.”

The next Blue Moon will be August 31st, 2012, with the first full moon for that month arriving on August 2nd, 2012.  So indeed it is a bit over 2.5 years in between Blue Moons.

Jan & Daryl

Jan & Daryl

Jan Fincher and myself are both very dedicated to the operations and promotions of the therapy dog programs at all four hospitals.  We both enjoy our work very much.  One day, over a cup of coffee at Starbucks, Jan and I brainstormed an idea to start a website uniting all four hospital therapy dog programs that would explain the details of each program and allow a place for people wanting to enroll themselves and their dogs to sign up and be put on a waiting list for a future class.  I told Jan that I could do the website work if she would write the words and like magic the work began immediately.  We worked diligently with these four hospitals for approvals, procedures, applications and implementing their ideas and suggestions.  It was a tremendous joint undertaking by everyone.  Hence, was born and it has really brought together the wonderful talents of all the hospitals and their Volunteer staff.

The honoree Jan Fincher is well known as a therapy dog classroom instructor.  She develops the curriculum, procedures, rules and most base regulations that all four hospitals use to operate their therapy dog programs.  She also teaches the classes for each hospital and is very well known for her dog behavioral skills.  Her dog Katie was a very popular therapy dog for many years working at Boulder Community Hospital and helped start the dog program at Longmont United Hospital.  Katie died a few months ago and everyone misses her a great deal.  She was a very talented visitation dog.  Jan’s great work is all voluntary as are all the volunteers working with these programs.  Jan spends countless hours and many gallons of gasoline supporting the hospital therapy dog programs in Boulder County.

Tilda and I have gone through the enrollment process for all four hospital therapy dog programs so we learned quickly how each program works and are constantly looking for ways to help the program to be even better than it was when we arrived.  Therapy Dogs perform a most important function within the Volunteer Services departments of each hospital.  Since these dogs do such close work with patients, visitors, visitor families and staff each day, it becomes paramount that each dog be tested for good behavior, be healthy, be well-mannered and that it passes all the class criteria and the individual hospital criteria all at the same time.   The human part of each team (called the “handler”) also has to go through specific training and orientation for each hospital.  A lot of effort goes into these programs to make sure everything is safe, scheduled and well organized.

The individual therapy dog organizations operating at the Boulder County hospitals are:

Avista Hospital:  Animal Helpers
Boulder Community Hospital:  Canine Corps
Exempla Good Sam Med Cntr:  Caring Canines
Longmont United Hospital:  TAILS  (Therapy Animals In Loving Service)

All therapy dogs working in hospitals are required to wear a dog vest and have a dog badge pinned to the vest with their picture.  Handlers must also wear a picture badge and the Volunteer uniform for that specific hospital.  The next time you see a dog team in any of the above hospitals, walk up to them and introduce yourself and thank them for their time and expense to make some lives just a bit more tolerable that day.  It will be appreciated and makes us all work even harder to keep the smiles on faces wherever we go.

Thank you Katie and Tilda!

Thanks to all who had a role in this recognition.  I am honored.

Representatives for Boulder, Exempla, Lafayette & Louisville Hospitals with Jan & Daryl

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What Could Be Better Than Putting a Smile on Someone’s Face?

Two girls smiling with Mom.

When Tilda and I first started visiting hospitals a couple years ago, we noticed something from the very beginning. People would look down at Tilda and SMILE. Most never raised their head to look my way or say anything to me, but would simply look at Tilda and smile while they met us in the hallway or saw us in hospital waiting rooms. After a while, doing this 4 days per week, we finally had a pattern of enjoyment between us. Everytime Tilda would see someone look at her and smile while we were walking, after they passed she would look up and give me a little smile as if to say “did you see that one, wasn’t it beautiful?” While walking so many hallways and entering into large waiting rooms of people every week, it actually became very noticeable that many, many smiles were being created by Tilda. Eventually, this wonderful response from people became a big part of my day and even if Tilda didn’t experience anything of a soul searching nature on a particular day, we still came away with a whole room full of beautiful smiles. After witnessing this day after day I can say without reservation that it was a touching feat to experience putting so many smiles on so many faces that otherwise may not have happened at all for those people on that day.

Tilda – Just hanging out.

I know Tilda very well as we spend so much time together and she knows me extremely well also. I could sense both of us searching for the smiles and when they broke across the face, it was like “mission accomplished” for the both of us. We both loved it as it made a somber day for someone into a better day with a smile. We saw this so much that I actually ordered a very small hand-held counter from the internet. Then, Tilda and I set out to count every smile that broke across someone’s face when they were directly looking at Tilda. I counted smiles every visit day for 2 months (8 weeks). The total number of smiles achieved was 4, 456 smiles in the 8 week period. That is an average of 557 per week or 139 smiles per day of visiting. That is a lot of walking, smiling and clicking. Tilda and I like to think of it this way………….Because of Tilda, 557 smiles per week were achieved that probably would not have occurred if Tilda wasn’t there at that moment on that day. Now you may be asking yourself “Okay, so what?” Dogs already know the importance of a smile. They watch us humans for that recognition and place themselves in a special mood when they see the human smile. Why is it so important for us humans to smile? Read the following information I found on the internet and think about it:

  1. Smiling Makes Us Attractive

We are drawn to people that smile. We want to know a smiling person and figure out what is so good. Frowns, scowls and grimaces all push people away, but a smile draws everyone in.

  1. Smiling Changes Our Mood

The next time you are feeling down, try putting on a smile. There is a good chance your mood will change for the better. Smiling can trick the body into helping you change your mood.

  1. Smiling Is Contagious

When someone is smiling, they lighten up the room, change the moods of others, and make things happier. A smiling person brings happiness with them. Smile lots and you will draw people to you.

  1. Smiling Relieves Stress

Stress can really show up in our faces. Smiling helps to prevent us from looking tired, worn down, and overwhelmed. When you are stressed, take time to put on a smile. The stress should be reduced and you’ll be better able to take action.

  1. Smiling Boosts Your Immune System

Smiling helps the immune system to work better. When you smile, immune function improves possibly because you are more relaxed. Prevent the flu and colds by smiling.

  1. Smiling Lowers Your Blood Pressure

When you smile, there is a measurable reduction in your blood pressure. Give it a try if you have a blood pressure monitor at home. Sit for a few minutes, take a reading. The smile for a minute and take another reading while still smiling. Do you notice a difference? Now you know why it is a well known fact that therapy dogs lower blood pressure. They put a smile on your face.

  1. Smiling Releases Endorphins, Natural Pain Killers and Serotonin

Studies have shown that smiling releases endorphins, natural pain killers, and serotonin. Together these three make us feel good. Smiling is a natural drug.

  1. Smiling Lifts the Face and Makes You Look Younger

The muscles we use to smile lift the face, making a person appear younger. Don’t go for a face lift, just try smiling your way through the day. You’ll look younger and feel better.

  1. Smiling Makes You Successful

You smile at me, I’ll smile at you!

Smiling people appear more confident, are more likely to be promoted, and more likely to be approached. Put on a smile at meetings and appointments and people will react to you differently.

  1. Smiling Helps You Stay Positive

Try this test: Smile. Now try to think of something negative without losing the smile. It’s hard. When we smile, our body is sending the rest of us a message that “Life is Good!” Stay away from depression, stress and worry by smiling.


A care-giving facility like a hospital can be a stressful place for people to be. Even the employees and staff deal with lots of emotions simply to get through their day. Family members wait with concern, some with sadness and grief. Visitors for patients and for family members are sometimes anxious and a bit on edge because of the situations surrounding their loved ones, their neighbor or their friend. I am the most honored person to experience Tilda bringing about 557 smiles per week inside this type of environment. Of course there always were situations when the frown persisted with an individual but that frown was followed again by 40 more smiles for Tilda. The best fun of it all was seeing Tilda smile back as I knew then that she was enjoying the venture also. Watching that exchange made me smile so everyone wins!

Until Next time……………..

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Once Upon A Time, Long, Long Ago!

A Quality Moment for Daryl and Tilda

Tilda and I continue our ventures to revisit all the wonderful places we cruised together when we first met over 7 years ago now. In dog years, that would be nearly 49 years ago so indeed it was a long, long time ago. We have discovered a lot of great places on our walks and short trips here and there. Slowly we are getting them all revisited again and Tilda is enjoying it immensely. Tilda doesn’t forget a favorite spot nor does she forget a favorite pastime or game we play. She always remembers all the rules, no matter how long it has been.

Short Update: We have slowed our visits to CSU as there is no progress whatsoever. We are still trying some things at home without much success and go to CSU every other week now to have her blood counts checked to see if there is any changes noticed with liver functions. Tilda is getting much weaker these days and the tumors are growing in size and in numbers. There are several hundred now…….just too many to count. Being just under the skin and sticking up as large bumps under the skin, the inflammation is significant and

Tilda with her ice cold wet towel in the cool green grass.

her skin always feels hot to the touch where the tumors are located. This causes Tilda to feel hot, but yet she has no body temperature and her rectal temp is normal all the time. What really helps her is to go for a swim in the rivers of cold mountain water so we have been doing a lot of that lately. We also figured out that soaking a large bath towel in cold water and tossing it over her back like a wet blanket really helps her settle down from panting when she gets into that mode. Anything that helps cool the skin is greatly appreciated and that will last for several hours. Tilda’s attitude is still absolutely wonderful and that welcoming smile rarely leaves her face.

"It feels so good on my legs."

Meanwhile, Tilda and I have been on a long joy ride doing a lot of fun things Tilda enjoys. One of our first stops was a short walk at Rogers Grove in Longmont. I was so surprised Tilda was able to walk as far as she did. From the parking lot by the restrooms we walked east to the main path and turned north and stopped to let her wade in the river, then we headed on west under Hover bridge and went about another block. She knows that area as Bunnyville and Squirrelville as there are always lots of Bunnies and Squirrels in that area. She was so excited. She walked very well on the way back and we took the river dirt path which she really enjoys. We then headed back to the restrooms and to the parking lot, but just before we stepped off the curb to enter the parking lot, she suddenly stopped, turned her head looking back to the park and just stared for maybe 10 seconds……….then she looked up at me, then forward to the truck. That was a goodbye stare if I ever saw one. I just told her “we’ll come back soon, Tilda, it’s a beautiful place”. I wonder if she senses something… was so obvious like a slap in the face. There was no one around anywhere and she wasn’t looking at anything specific….just that “last look” gaze.

Cookie Picnic made possible by my friends at Longmont Surgery Center.

On another day we made it to Golden Ponds in Longmont. Tilda and I have walked lots of miles at this park years ago. She remembered all of it. She had to stop several times to take a break and eat some cookies she got in the mail from the wonderful ladies at the Longmont Surgery Center at Longmont United Hospital complex. While she ate the cookies, I reminded her that Bonijean had sent them on behalf of all her friends in the Center and she smiled and wagged her tail as if she remembered those names and the hundreds of people in the waiting room in that Surgery Center who gave her a pet and a smile many, many times. We visited the waterfall in the park and Tilda went wading and enjoyed the cold water. Years ago, when coming back from the waterfall we used to turn towards the east and walk around the front lake. On this day, it looked to me as if Tilda was

Mr Golden, a young boy and Tilda!

getting tired so as we approached the turnoff I told Tilda we had better take the shortcut and stay on the concrete path and get back to the truck. I tugged at her leash as we went by the turnoff and she just stopped. I looked back at her and she looked at me as if to say “you’re going the wrong way”. I didn’t say anything and just tugged on the leash again and started to walk forward. She took a few steps and stopped again. This time she turned around and started walking down the old path. I asked her if she really was up to going that long way around back to the truck and her tail wagged insistently. So we went the same old way around that lake we have always gone years before and she was happy and wagging her tail the whole way back to the truck. After all that time away, she remembered the route and wanted to stick with it.

"It just doesn't get much better than this." Loveland Greenway

We made several trips to Loveland to walk the Greenway path along the river from the ball field complex on 287 heading west to Taft going under the Taft bridge and continuing west to the waterfalls on the river there. This is also one of Tilda’s favorite spots as she just stands in the water and gazes at the falls and listens to the sounds.  One day, she stood in this position for over 15 minutes in the ice cold water just looking. Once in a while she will take a drink of the mountain water, then resume looking out at the waterfall again. It is nearly a one mile walk round trip and Tilda did it every time in stride. Some days she would have bandages on her legs and when we got back to the truck we would have to wipe her down, remove the bandages, disinfect the ouchies and put on new bandages again. She didn’t mind at all as it gave her more time in the shade on the cool green grass.

Donna & Tilda in the cool green grass of Laramie

I used to make the trip to Laramie and Cheyenne, Wyoming quite a bit years ago searching for treasurers in flea markets and antique stores. Tilda always enjoyed those trips even though it was always a long ride. It is a beautiful drive from Fort Collins on 287 to Laramie. After some shopping we’d have lunch and then drive over to Cheyenne on I-80 for more shopping. It’s a fun one-day adventure and especially fun in the summertime as it is always cooler in that country. Laramie is around 7100 feet in altitude. Tilda loves cool weather the best so always looks forward to Laramie. After some stops to review her favorite pit stop places between Fort Collins and Laramie, Tilda’s mom and I did some shopping in Laramie while Tilda waited in the air conditioning and took a nap or two. We then decided to go to the nice park downtown and see if Tilda wanted to enjoy Tilda’s Park in Laramie, Wyoming. We arrived at the park and I took her bath towel and went to the park restroom to soak the towel in ice cold water. The temperature outside was a sunny 73 degees at high noon with a slight breeze and very dry air. Tilda came out of the truck, using her carpeted ramp, and lay down

Tilda & Donna at Lincoln Highway rest stop on I-80

immediately under a large oak tree in the gorgeous and cool green grass. She spread out in the grass until she couldn’t stretch any farther. I took the water-soaked towel and covered her with it. Wow…….did she ever love that situation. Donna and I had a cup of coffee and enjoyed watching Tilda enjoying the day and the weather. We were there for some time and finally I told Tilda we had better head on down the road to Cheyenne. I removed the towel and she didn’t get up as she normally does. I tried to coax her into the truck……no dice. She made it clear she wasn’t going anywhere and that if we were so darned anxious and in a big hurry to drive on the interstate, go right ahead as she was staying right were she was enjoying the real things of life. So we waited a few more minutes and then I said “Tilda, would you like to go to McDonalds and get your very own Cheeseburger?” Finally she got up herself and went to her ramp and walked into the truck. Another observation here, before she started up the ramp she again turned around and gazed around the park. Why she did this, I don’t know, but it sure appeared to be the “parting stare” again. I told Tilda “Yes, this is a beautiful place”. She smiled at me and hopped up the ramp and laid down in the truck. We all went to McDonalds for a cheeseburger and Tilda had her very own with a couple french fries from mom.

Tilda wanted a ride on "Bigboy".

At Cheyenne, Tilda visited another favorite spot………the Union Pacific “Bigboy” park where an actual Bigboy #4004 steam engine sets in the park in front of a nice lake that has lots of tall oak trees with several acres of cool green grass. There also are a lot of Canadian and Domestice Geese thriving at this park and it is a lot of fun to watch the people feed them and take the pictures.

Tilda is really missing all her friends and fans. I can also tell she is missing her visits with total strangers. As we walked into CSU Veterinary School this morning for her scheduled appointment, I put her e-collar on so she wouldn’t be tempted to lick the bumps on her legs when not with me. The reception desk is in an open cubicle that has short swinging doors to keep the dogs out of that area while she checks them in. As we approached the lady at the desk, Tilda went charging right through the swinging doors, pulling me along briskly, and went up to the seated lady and

Tilda with her Buds Auntie Jane & Franny.

laid her head across the the lady’s lap, e-collar and all. Of course that captured a heart and was a great maneuver on Tilda’s part as it got her about 4 treats so you can bet that will be a standard routine from this point on.

Tilda wanted me to tell everyone that she really appreciates all the emails, treats, prayers and good thoughts. She loves her friends and misses you all very much.

Until Next Time………

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Tilda’s Connection With a Special Lady on Our Way to “The Den”!

Update for Tilda for August 21st, 2011

On the last day of Tilda visiting a hospital to make her working rounds, she had a most interesting incident. I want to share that with you in a moment, but first:

Tilda at a dam on the Big Thompson in Loveland

On our last visit to CSU, we asked for a follow-up blood test as it has been 2 weeks since the last one. I wanted to see if the liver enzymes (counts) had changed since the last test as we have been doing some things trying to prevent Tilda from liver failure due to the high output of chemicals from the tumors. The good news is there was NO CHANGE in the test results from the test 2 weeks prior. Previous to that earlier test, her liver values report were worsening week by week, so I was pleased to hear this last test had stabilized in that regard. I have been working steadily with others overseas (another story for another time) for the last few weeks trying to come up with ways to alter Tilda’s condition as none of the chemo drugs were working at all.

Tilda at Viestenz-Smith Park in the mountains

I am pleased to report that as of this last week, part of Tilda’s situation appears to have stabilized. While her good days may not be getting any better, her bad days are not getting any worse. The best news is there doesn’t appear to be any new tumors developing and possibly the size of the old tumors are staying the same now. This is a major step to slow down this process, but still is not a cure by any means. Until we find a way to stop the old tumors from producing all those chemical overdoses, it is pretty much a losing battle. Right now I am successful trying to balance the side effects of the overdoses with medications and herbal remedies. That appears to be working now, but the problem is there is no way to know what damage has been done internally which continues to occur when the balance between chemicals and treatments is not quite right. The goal is to attempt to “starve off” the old tumors while not allowing any new ones to grow, but not sure we have enough time left to accomplish that feat. However, I am very pleased with what we have accomplished so far as now Tilda is a bit more predictable than she has been concerning her symptoms.

On the other side is the sad news and that is Tilda is wasting away rapidly now. She eats as much as she wants of good cooked meat (carbs and/or sugars feed the tumors so don’t want to do that) many times per day and is still losing weight. The old tumors are of the size where they take all the nutrition and her body gets shorted. The reasons I have been told is that a normal cell has one or a few nutritional receptors. Tumor cells have nearly 160 receptors so in this situation, you know who wins in the fight for nutrition inside her body……and Tilda’s body shows that without a doubt. This is why I say we are running out of time and probably cannot win this battle, but we will learn a great deal along the way.

Tilda on trail just before bear appeared

I have video verification of Tilda’s endurance. About a week ago, Tilda and I went back to what we call “Tilda’s Park” which is the Viestenz-Smith park west of Loveland on Hiway 34 to continue our adventures visiting places from the past. This is Tilda’s most favorite park. Her and I were alone very early one morning (no one in the park yet at all) and were walking down a dirt road and all of a sudden a BEAR crossed the path up ahead in the shadows. I had Tilda on a leash, but she went into this explosion of protection by standing in front of my legs crossways and began barking like I have never heard her bark before. Tilda is NOT a barking dog……rarely does she ever bark, but this bear had her very concerned for my safety and hers. Now, get this picture if you can…………a very ill dog with bandages all over her head, body and legs…..still trying to protect her master and fend off a wild animal by barking like crazy (which she never does). Our good fortune was that this bear was more afraid of us then we were of him and he disappeared quickly. When I thought it was safe, I dropped Tilda’s leash, took out my camera and started to take some video of Tilda at that moment. For those of you who know Tilda, you won’t believe this video. I have uploaded it to YouTube so some of you may not be able to open it on your work computers, but you should be able to open at home. The bear crossed the path in the shadows just beyond the red sign in the video:

After I stopped the camera, I grabbed Tilda’s leash to go forward and she would not move forward. Instead, she pulled me off to the right…….through the pole fence and way around the area where the bear had crossed. That’s “Our Girl”. I am not sure if Tilda’s barking scared the bear or if it was the sight of her stamina and attitude with all those bandages on. Another great experience with Tilda!!!

Tilda’s Connection With a Special Lady on Our Way to “The Den”!

Tilda at CSU on the day we found out about her cancer

Tilda has had to stop her work at the hospitals some time ago, but early on in her disease, she was still able to do hospital visits as there were no open sores and her condition is not contagious. During her last hour of visiting on her last day of visiting, we were headed down to the lower level of a hospital to visit a group of staff people that always enjoyed Tilda’s visits. They call this room “the den” as it is so far removed from the main part of the hospital and it is a long ways to get there from the main hospital.

I wasn’t sure if Tilda could make it that far on this day as she was already weakening from her situation, but I thought we would just head in the general direction as it may be the last time Tilda could make that trip………so we headed there and Tilda made it just fine.

As we turned the final corner and walked down the narrow hallway to the den, there was an small office on the right with one lady sitting at her desk. As Tilda and I passed her office doorway, Tilda stopped and looked in at the lady with her tail wagging straight in the air. We had never stopped at this office before as it was always vacant so this lady was a total stranger to both of us. I feared that Tilda was going to tire before we got to the den so I asked her to “come Tilda” and she didn’t move………just stood there gazing at the lady with her tail wagging high in the air, her ears perked and a big panting smile on her face. I stepped backwards to the doorway and the lady was watching Tilda, but not smiling much so I apologized that we interrupted her and told the lady we would move on…………….so we did.

Tilda dining with Auntie Jane and Dad

We only spent around 5 to 6 minutes in the den with the ladies there as Tilda seemed either tired or distracted for whatever reason. She was nice to them of course, but not her normal self so we said our farewells and headed back down the hall. As soon as we stepped out of the den office, Tilda immediately pulled me down the hall with a great deal of intent and went right back to the small office with the one lady we had passed by earlier. This time Tilda marched right into the lady’s office, walked up to her, sat, stared at the lady with perked ears, I saw Tilda’s tail winding up into that high speed connection mode and then I figured out FINALLY what was going on. I looked at

the lady and said “I am so sorry, I don’t know why Tilda is wanting to be with you but she is insistent about it”. The lady then smiled and said “it’s okay, I think she is sensing something today”. That was my clue to BUTT OUT and let things be and to say NOTHING while Tilda went at what she does best. The lady rolled her chair out in front of Tilda and cuddled her head in her lap while Tilda incessantly looked up at the lady’s eyes as tears began to drop from them. As she reached for a tissue, I backed myself out of the office and leaned up against the wall by the door in order to give them

both some time to share. After a couple minutes, Tilda came walking out of the office and I grabbed her leash and thanked the lady and wished her a good day and she did the same to me. I started to walk down the hallway and Tilda was at my side for about 20 feet……when Tilda stopped, turned around and went back to the lady’s office pulling me the whole way again. As I walked into the lady’s office AGAIN, I threw up my hands to her and she said “it’s okay, she has me pegged right today”. I didn’t ask why, not my place to do that………….Tilda knew what was going on and it was my job just to let her take care of it.

In Wyoming the sky gets sooooo BIG!

Tilda and the lady visited intently for a few moments and then all of a sudden, Tilda got up, turned around with tail wagging high (which to me means “I am done and let’s get on with life……..where are we going next?).”  We walked down the long hallway again and this time her mood was happy, smiling and peaceful. On the way I reached down and told Tilda “Thank you, Tilda” while patting her on the back as I knew what had just happened. She looked up a me while walking and gave me that darling smile with her eyes and face. She knew that I knew exactly what she was doing and had done.

Tilda and Donna in the good old days

Sometimes these incidents happen and I never learn why they happened.  However this time, several weeks later, I was walking a new therapy dog team around that same hospital introducing them to all the people, showing them where to go, who to visit, etc. I walked the new team to the den again and on the way we met the same lady that Tilda had visited so intently. She asked about Tilda and I brought her up to date on the situation. She asked me to tell Tilda that she was praying for her and thinking about her and wished her to get well soon………….and to thank Tilda for what she had done for her that day. I explained to the new team what had happened on Tilda’s original visit with this lady and it was then that the lady shared that on the day of Tilda’s visit to her, she had just found out that a loved one was diagnosed with serious cancer and the report had just came in that morning of Tilda’s visit to her. OKAY……….now we all get the purpose and reasoning behind Tilda’s actions that day. Of course, I knew it was something like that, but Tilda is always the one to pick up on it and then trying to make it better. I think she succeeded once more and what a fitting tribute to her last day of work at a hospital. Thank you, Tilda!

Until Next Time………………..



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Tilda and the Family Member in the Hallway

Fran’s rainbow from Tilda

Keeping my promise to Tilda, I will continue to document more of the incidents I witnessed of Tilda encountering people in a somewhat magical manner. Tilda’s Friends are so wonderful as they are sending me pictures of their “Tilda rainbows” so I will use some of those pictures again in this blog and add some new ones. People are so excited to know Tilda is watching them. I have heard from Linda, Mara, Joan & Alec, Elaine, Margaret, Bonijean, Fran, Debbie, another Linda, Julie, Cathy, and another Linda, Jane, Kathy, Karen, Leslie, Laura, yet another Linda, Pat, Stacy, Mary, all saying they have been touched by Tilda’s rainbows shining down on them and recognized it as such, or have had another incident when Tilda was brought forward in their mind. There are more people that have written talking about their Tilda rainbows and other connection items, but this gives you an idea what a phenomenon this really is. Thanks to everyone for sharing. Thanks to Tilda for keeping her friends close to her heart and thanks to her friends for doing the same.

Now on with Tilda’s story:

In the early spring of 2011, we were doing our regular visit routine at a local hospital. It was sort of a normal day with the same meetings and greetings of hospital staff, a couple wonderful patients and some nearby doctor’s offices with children mixed in with a few hospital offices. Tilda just loved doing this and it was she that would take me on the rounds…..I just held the leash. She knew the people that would give her back rubs. She knew who gave her treats and she knew who would give her a belly rub if she rolled over at the right time. She knew where the kids would be and she knew when it was time for a drink of water and a potty stop. If I forgot or missed something, she would stop and look at me as if to say “hey, wake up and get with it, old man!”

It didn’t even matter if we walked the route backwards. She knew who was where and what time things needed to take place. This by itself is not unusual at all. Many handlers of good therapy dogs will tell you the same thing. These dogs are very intelligent and very task oriented with tons of anticipation going on in their mind.

We were about half through our rounds at this hospital and had just gone through the

Lenina’s Rainbow from Tilda

patient hospital bed area where we did visit with a couple people that were most appreciate and fun for Tilda. We had finished that area and began walking down the hallway to leave. Tilda was at my side and the two of us were just strolling along the very wide and carpeted hallway when suddenly we met a lady coming towards us and going by us that appeared very sad with her head down and looking straight forward. When the lady was about 10 to 12 feet beyond us, Tilda stopped………ears perked, tail wagging high in the air with her head turned and looking back to the lady in earnest. I whispered to Tilda “what’s the matter, Tilda?” Tilda then turned her body completely around and took a few steps back from whence we came and clearly was trying to get the ladies attention. The leash was tight in my hand so I turned around to look also and just at that moment the lady slowed, turned around and saw Tilda tempting and luring her into a visit. I immediately knew what was going on but just stayed where I was holding Tilda in a tight leash. Tilda’s head was held way high, tail up over her back “flag waving”, ears at attention. As the lady saw the stance Tilda was taking, she hollered “oh puppy, I would like to meet you today, do you have a moment?” I spoke loudly “of course, this is Tilda and I think she wants to visit with you.”

Tilda pulled me towards the lady as she came walking briskly towards us. When Tilda and the lady met, the lady got down on her knees, Tilda went down to the floor with a big “uuummmppphhh” groaning sound. The lady sat on the carpet with her legs folded and Tilda wiggled herself onto the lady’s lap looking up at her. I thought to myself “uh oh……….here we go” as the lady tilted her head and got nose to nose with Tilda. It was at that moment I dropped the leash and walked about 10 feet away and leaned up against the wall trying to butt out of that special moment between Tilda and this lady. As therapy dog handlers, we are to never drop the leash and need to remain in control of the dog at all times, but at this moment it was a judgment call as I know Tilda is trying to connect and this is what she was there for so I just need to get out of the way and remain watchful of the situation to give the lady a bit more privacy. To me, it is what this work is all about……a private moment of letting go of the anxieties between good dog and good person.

Bonijean’s Rainbow from Tilda

All of a sudden I heard intense sobbing from the lady and knew then I had made the right decision. I would turn my head towards them now and then to make sure all was okay and each time Tilda and her were locked in a head to head hugging position of endearment. The lady was gently rocking the both of them back and forth in a most loving and touching manner. It indeed brought tears to my eyes to watch as Tilda just cuddled the lady back while still on her back with head in the lady’s lap. One time I saw Tilda licking the tears that were streaming down the ladies face. Another time I looked I saw a concerned nurse approaching from the other end of the hallway and I raised my hand, waved to get her attention. She saw me and I motioned to her that it was okay and then motioned for her to stay back as to not interrupt them and the nurse quickly broke into tears also watching this take place right on the floor a few feet in front of her. With a minute or so, a couple other nurses and a doctor came up behind the first nurse and she explained to the rest what was going on…….needless to say, it was a dramatic event of the very best kind for all of us to witness.

By this time, Tilda was still nose to nose with the lady and had her right leg up on the left shoulder of the lady, sort of in an embrace. Tilda was being so tender and loving while yet being almost motionless and allowing the lady to respond as she needed. The sobbing finally stopped, then the lady looked up and saw us all looking on with smiles on our faces. She got up from the carpet, put Tilda’s head on the floor as she rose, then Tilda got up and stood beside her and leaned up against the lady’s leg and looked up at her. I slowly approached the couple to pick up Tilda’s leash again and the lady said “Sir, I thank God for you today. This dog knew exactly what I needed and she provided it for me. I was to the point of almost no return and was so sad that I really didn’t want to live another day. Somehow that all changed in these few moments and I won’t forget this experience the rest of my days.” I gave the lady a good hug and told her I was glad that the rest of her day was going to be a good one. I didn’t have to say anything more as I thought Tilda had said enough for the both of us.

Original August 30 rainbow at our house put together by Margaret from the 3 photos taken that day. Thank you, Margaret. It really shows how large this double rainbow was and how Tilda was trying to get our attention.

Before we left, the lady shared she was a close family member of a terminally ill patient down the hall. Tilda recognized the turmoil in this lady as she met us in that hallway through whatever means she uses to sense that fact. Tilda immediately picked up on it, flipped around and somehow, some way, she got the attention of that lady to bring about something that demonstrates the character of the entire therapy dogs programs at these hospitals. A good therapy dog is not only about saying “howdy” to everyone and getting treats, there is something more that they develop and mostly do this on their own when given a chance to do so…..with the people that need it most. I am quite sure that Tilda will live on in this lady’s mind for a very long time to come. I know the sight of those two on the floor, in their embrace, will live on in my mind for a very long time to come.

As we left that patient hallway and rounded the corner, I reached down and patted Tilda on her right side and said “Thank You, Tilda! You do good work.” She looked up at me and gave me that big mouth-open smile as if to say “Yup, that was really cool, wasn’t it dad?” Today, as I reflect back to this time, I am so thankful I was able to witness this event and others like it. If I were asked to pick one thing I miss most about not having Tilda with me any longer, it would be these times of her special magic to latch onto person’s heart and take it for a short ride to freedom from all the daily woes. Witnessing that event always stirred my emotions reminding me there is more to life than death and taxes and that we all have things to be thankful for and something to look forward to. Thank You, Tilda!

Until Next Time………………

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Tilda and the Young Lady That Wouldn’t Speak!

Sissy being Sissy!

Update on Sissy: Sissy has been with us for 12 days now and she is adapting wonderfully. Many are asking about her background, so here is a quick run down on what I know. Sissy is 5 years old and her home was in Houston, Texas with an elderly lady and obviously it was a very loving and good home. The lady passed on and her family did not want Sissy so they took her to a shelter in the area. Unfortunately, it was a kill shelter so Sissy’s doom was predetermined. However, the different dog organizations around the country leave their contact data at these kill shelters. The Colorado Dalmatian Rescue people were contacted about the plight of dear Sissy as she was thought to be part Dalmatian and part Border Collie mix. I think their mixed breed heritage guess was perfect as Sissy acts and looks exactly like a cross between these two marvelous dog breeds. One of the good Fostering ladies of Colorado Dalmatian Rescue drove to Houston to retrieve Sissy.

While Sissy was being vet checked, photographed and getting ready to go on the CDR website for adoption, she moved around though a couple Fostering homes here in Colorado, whoever had room for her at the moment. I saw Sissy on the website and she looked a bit overweight, but I asked about her anyway. They said she was overweight but they had her on a diet and she was 20 pounds lighter now. So I contacted the Foster Mom caring for Sissy and we made a date to visit with Sissy. We spent a couple hours with Sissy and she went home with us for permanent adoption and all that has been completed. Sissy has blended right into our household and is very appreciative of the fact that she only has two senior citizens to take care of which is not a task for her at all. She has more than enough love for the both of us and is already becoming permanently attached to me as an extra limb. Sissy is a real good “buddy” dog and loves going everywhere with me. We have traveled over 800 miles already with her in the back seat resting in Tilda’s bed. She simply loves it and a great riding companion. She doesn’t quite yet know what to make of all this fuss, but we are off to a great start with her trusting me a great deal. Sissy is very smart, just in this short time she has already learned the commands Sit, Down, Over and Stay.

Sissy’s welcome smile called a “Smarl”

She is very suspicious of most anything yet, but that is to be expected. In time, she will learn that we always come back home no matter if it is driving 50 miles away or just walking around the block.

Sissy has this adorable Dalmatian smile when she is happy. In Dalmatian language I am told it is called a “Smarl”. It looks like a wrinkled up nose snarl expression showing her full set of teeth, but it is her happy smile and she does this while dancing with her front feet in a sitting position. It is absolutely darling and if she is away from me more than a couple minutes, she always sits up and greets me with that beautiful dancing Smarl.

 Tilda and the Young Lady That Wouldn’t Speak!

This story happened long ago and early in Tilda’s work as a therapy dog. The experience was one of the first events that caught my attention as to Tilda having some talents in regard to connecting with people. This event not only startled me a bit, but also those people standing nearby who witnessed the happening. It took place in a rehabilitation area that housed patients with what appeared to be mental struggles.  The area was behind locked doors and to enter it required someone to let you in and someone to be with you and the dog at all times.  Most times it was a challenging atmosphere, but many of these patients love dogs also and it was a spark in their day. The RN’s and Doctors would sometimes observe a dog visit with the patient to witness the patient responses in order to assist them with making certain changes according to what they saw in the patient/dog exchange.

Happy, Happy Tilda

What is most educational to understand about this type of facility is that dogs judge people by a whole different standard than us humans do sometimes. It has nothing to do with how intelligent we are, how beautiful we are, how poor or how wealthy we are. It has everything to do with a sense of feelings and impressions based on some simple facts that “everyone needs someone”. A good therapy dog recognizes this need and when conditions are right, the dog will pick up on that need and try to resolve it if possible. This is why good therapy dogs can play such a major role in many different situations. It can be a healing role such as lowering the blood pressure. It can be a role of physical encouragement such as young handicapped children learning to walk with a dog. It can be educational development such as a child learning to read by reading to a dog and the dog listening. Dogs can also play an important roll in mental therapeutic events such as small children being encouraged to achieve certain things with the dog that they ordinarily would not attempt (I have witnessed this at a special school in Denver and it is wonderful). In Tilda’s case regarding this story, it was a life changing event for a patient… that tied hope, emotional beauty, trust and goodness together in a solid relationship between a dog and a lady. The story starts like this:

We visited this facility every week, announcing our arrival through the intercom outside the door. Upon introducing ourselves, a nurse came to the door and escorted us into the facility. The nurse would make the announcement on the floor that Tilda dog was in the front lobby and available for play time or a loving visit. Soon the halls filled with people as they came out of their rooms and lined up to spend time with Tilda dog. One by one, Tilda would greet them, sometimes she would lay down and roll over so they could easily rub her side, several people at one time. The patients loved to feed Tilda small treats and of course Tilda thought that was great. There was always lots of cheer and plenty of questions to go along with the visits.

Tilda hanging out on the stairs

One week, a special lady caught my attention while she was visiting with Tilda. She was a lady, maybe in her early 20’s, that was very serious and the love in her eye when she looked at Tilda was unmistakable as I had seen that expression before in people that loved dogs very much. The interesting thing about this lady’s visit was that Tilda was very attentive and sitting squarely in front of the lady who was down on her knees and facing Tilda directly, almost head to head. Most people will talk to Tilda, but this lady just stared into Tilda’s eyes. Tilda would raise her left leg and offer a paw and the lady would kiss the top of Tilda’s foot and then massage it tenderly while looking into Tilda’s eyes. Of course Tilda picked up on that quickly and soon the lady was quietly hugging Tilda and Tilda stayed sitting and was loving back. It almost looked like a personal encounter and I felt a bit like an intruder watching it all. However, I noticed something unusual about this visit.  Not only was the lady especially loving to Tilda, she never spoke, not one word, not even a whisper. I no more than finished running those thoughts through my head and the nurse standing next to me watching the whole thing whispered in my ear that this young lady has not spoke a word, nothing, in a very long time. I nodded my head affirmatively and then some of the exchange between Tilda and this lady started to make sense to me.

Several weeks went by and each visit to this facility yielded the same result. Lots of fun and games between Tilda and all the patients except for this one lady. Tilda’s visit with this lady was always subdued and very direct, quiet and persevering. One time the doctor was even called to observe as the nurse thought maybe this lady was actually trying to make contact with Tilda which would be a major event for this lady. On that day, I asked the nurse if the lady has spoken to anyone about anything yet……..she shook her head “no”. It was wonderful to watch Tilda work with this young lady. Those two obviously had something going and only those two knew what it was.

Tilda chilling her toes at the doggy swim party!

Then on one crisp morning we rang the buzzer again to this area and announced ourselves for a new visit day. The nurse once again came to get us and escorted us to the lobby. She then announced our arrival over the public address system in the area. She said “Tilda dog is here if you want to see her”. Immediately there was a loud and very excited scream from the rear of the facility so the nurse and I leaned our heads around the corner to see what was going on down at the end of the hall. What we both saw I will never forget as long as I live. It was this same young lady running as fast as she could down the hall yelling “Tilda, oh Tilda, I love you Tilda…….Tilda, I love you Tilda!” The lady was coming at high speed and I became concerned for Tilda’s safety but it looked to me like the lady wasn’t out to do any harm. Just at that moment, I felt Tilda’s leash tighten and as I looked at her she was on her back feet, reared up like a horse with the front feet pawing towards the lady fast approaching her. Tilda had the biggest smile on her face and was pulling so hard trying to get to this lady while still standing up on her hind legs when the lady came in with that baseball-like “sliding into home plate” maneuver. As Tilda and the lady softly collided into each other, Tilda was making all sorts of loving grunting sounds and the lady just could not stop talking and screaming Tilda’s name and saying how she missed her and loved her. By that time both Tilda and the lady were down on the floor on their sides and the lady was kissing Tilda all over while Tilda was licking the lady’s hands and arms everywhere she could while kicking her legs with joy. What a Blessed event that was to behold.

Ready for work. Time is a wasting, dad!

The nurse had tears running down her cheeks as I did, but she had the perception to get on her cell phone and call the doctor over. He was there within seconds and witnessed dog and lady rolling around on the floor with the lady talking and cheering to Tilda. After a couple minutes the reunion settled a bit and while the young lady was hugging Tilda the doctor started talking to the lady and she answered him saying things like “I love Tilda very much, she is a good girl and she has really helped me, she understands.  Thank you my dear sweet Tilda”. After a while I could see that the doctor wanted to work with the patient so we said our goodbye’s and as we left, the nurse said to us “I hope you know what you two have done for this person”. I just turned around and told her with my voice breaking up “Tilda did this, I had nothing to do with it…….I am just her lucky escort”. The nurse was wetting her own tissues also as the emotions of the moment caught us all by surprise.

As the locking door closed behind us on our way out, I stopped, took a deep breath, looked down into Tilda’s eyes and there was total happiness…….happiness of the kind that makes one realize that all the gruesome details of life don’t really matter. It is the lovingly meaningful things that count and Tilda just taught me that once again. I wiped my tears, put a smile on my face and took a step forward and Tilda was once again in sync and ready to roll. As we walked down the hall alone I looked down at Tilda as she was looking up at me and then told her “thank you, Tilda, you did really good back there” while I patted her on her right side as I always did after one of those events. She looked up at me with that darling expression as if to say “yeah, wasn’t that simply just too cool? It really felt good to me too. Come on, dad, let’s go find another one”.

Until Next Time……………..

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Remembering Tilda!

2011 Planetree Award

Tilda’s Planetree Award Medallion

I received a phone call recently from the Longmont United Hospital asking me to stop by and pick up Tilda’s Planetree Award medallion she had been presented from the Planetree conference in Nashville recently. Tilda was not the overall winner as she didn’t live long enough, but they presented her with a wonderful award. Tilda knew she was entered in this contest and I could tell she was very excited about it. She really wanted to go to Nashville, Tennessee in her truck back seat and get up on that stage with her tail waving “howdy” (just like she did on the old Boulder theater stage) while wearing her special kerchief to compliment her Nashville presence. You might remember reading her special submission essay to enter the contest. A lot of people at LUH worked hard to help Tilda with the best chance they could give her to win that contest for LUH. But, not too long after her story was submitted to the Planetree people, Tilda was diagnosed with her cancer crud. As if the sadness of this tragedy wasn’t enough, Tilda also knew that she probably wouldn’t be able to visit the hospitals anymore and that her contest winning fantasies would probably need to remain just that.

I will never forget the moments right after the vet at CSU gave us Tilda’s prognosis with Tilda at my feet paying attention to every word coming from the lady’s mouth. I had a

Tilda’s expression at CSU when she found out the bad news.

camera with me and couldn’t resist a photograph of that expression on Tilda’s face as the doctor spoke as it “said it all” in a nutshell. Tilda could understand things, maybe not the English, but she understood the aura or general tone of most conversations she was around. She may have been doing that by recognizing my feelings and emotions and interpreting them, I am not sure. I just could tell that she knew exactly the summary of what was being said.


Back to the Planetree Award….I did make the trip to Longmont United to pick up the medallion and it is beautiful. The medallion is attached to a gold neck ribbon that would have went around Tilda’s neck and the colorful display would have been striking with Tilda wearing it with her pink color and brown ears. Wouldn’t that have been fun walking through the halls and waiting rooms with Tilda wearing her prize? She would have been so proud and would have represented LUH very well with that very big smile on her face and tail waving like a flag.

Tilda’s 2011 Planetree Award

There was also a photo of Tilda in the Planetree Conference book along with all the other contestants from all over the country. Her beautiful picture did LUH proud I think. Above my computer is one of Tilda’s calendars and presently it is open to January/February and her February photograph still makes me smile. It was a perfect snapshot of her personality by a photographer named Will at the Exempla hospital (Thank you, Julie). She already had cancer the day of that photo shoot and her side away from the camera had bandages and tumors at the time, but she was still smiling and doing what she loved best……posing for the camera.

Planetree Magazine

My personal thanks to Linda, Carol, Laura, Stacey, Fran, Jane & Joan at Longmont United for their part with Tilda in the Planetree event. An unpredictable chain of events came about that wouldn’t allow this to come to fruition, but I am sure Tilda is looking down with much pride for giving it a good effort while she good. Her gold ribbon with the Planetree medallion is now placed around her cremation box right over her pink collar and it looks awesome.

Therapy Dogs, Inc. – Cheyenne, Wyoming

Tilda was also remembered in the Therapy Dogs, Inc. magazine that I received recently.  She was memorialized on the last page of the magazine along with Katie who was Jan Fincher’s darling Aussie.  Katie crossed her Rainbow Bridge this last year also.  Katie and Tilda were both registered with Therapy Dogs, Inc.  Jan and myself are also Therapy Dog, Inc Tester/Observers for the organization.  Special thanks to Billie Smith, Executive Director at TD, Inc, and all the rest of the folks there who are doing such a wonderful job with this organization.

Katie & Tilda in the Therapy Dogs, Inc. Magazine


While some say that all things come to an end at some point in time, I would prefer to believe that good dogs live on and on in our hearts, minds and our soul.  It is never pleasant to lose a good dog, yet the memories of all the special times, special deeds and special accomplishments are something we can hold on to forever and be proud of the fact we were able to witness what went on with these wonderful canines.  Tilda’s story never seems to be quite finished even though her physical presence is long passed.  She touched the hearts of many people who will never forget her as long as they live and I count myself as a loyal member of that Tilda Club enjoying all the experiences.  Of all the tributes Tilda has realized, may the best of all be that we never forget her and other good doggies like her.  They have worked so hard to bring a smile, a laugh, a few tears…….which allows our lives to be more complete and to be a better person because of them.

Thank you, Tilda!  May your spirit live on forever.

’til Next Time.




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Sissy-Biskit Carries on the Tilda Tradition!

You are probably asking yourself “who in the world is Sissy-Biskit?” We renamed Sissy to Biskit as she was so shy when we first got her we didn’t want to tag her with the “Sissy” name. But then everyone already knew her as Sissy and she answers to both names. Hence, the name Sissy-Biskit. I have a lot of fun joking with people about her name. “You can call her Sissy if you want, or you can call her Biskit, or you can call her Sissy-Bisket”. I used to follow that phrase with “or you can call her Rambo” in hopes that would help Sissy with her shyness. But then my friend Margaret mentioned that it should be Rambette since Sissy is a lady. Margaret has a large Rottweiler named Jake so we both agreed that a fun name for Jake would be “Fuzzy”. Can’t you just picture Fuzzy and Rambette crusing the halls of a hospital? Yikes! There is a picture for a wild imagination.

The good news is Sissy has really crawled out of her shell. If you recall, she came from Houston, Texas and belonged to an elderly lady who passed. The family didn’t want Sissy and took her to the animal shelter……..which happened to be a Kill Shelter. Thank


goodness for good communications with the Colorado Dalmatian Rescue as they found Sissy and brought her to Colorado. I found Sissy on-line and we adopted her on October 25, 2011 immediately after visiting with her. Sissy was so shy (still is sometimes) that I couldn’t even walk with her outside. She kept looking at the sky and lowering her head like she was afraid it was going to fall on her. I was told she spent 60 days in the shelter waiting for her ride to Colorado. I think that time severely affected little Sissy, caused her to be very sensitive of other dogs and caused her to not trust much of anything or anyone. Our first walk outside on a leash was exactly 55 feet. Actually, it totaled 110 feet if you want to count the return trip of Sissy dragging me back to the front door like a runaway horse pulling a plow. So the patience and training began. Day by day, event by event, it sometimes appeared hopeless, yet sometimes there was a slight glimmer of her true personality which I was sure deep inside her somewhere. The characteristic that kept giving me hope is she loved meeting new people. She met Donna and I very well the first 30 seconds we visited with her. She has met hundreds of people since then with similar intensity. Sometimes she is hesitant, most times very loving. She seems to size people up very quickly and has a good sense of what is going on with the person she is visiting. To me, that was the end result I was looking for. A meaningful dog does not have to like everyone, but it has to be willing to give it a try.

I had a very difficult time getting started with training Sissy-Biskit as she would not eat

Sissy-Biskit gets so sleepy and loves to put all her legs in a pile.

treats, dog biscuits, not even people food. She wasn’t interested in that stuff at all. I thought to myself……. “this is going to be difficult to begin training a dog without rewards”. But then one day I was nibbling on some peanuts and I dropped one on the floor. Sissy ran and cobbled it up before I could even move. I offered her another and she snapped it right up. Bingo! We found a treat she wanted and would work for. Some people tell me that peanuts aren’t good for a dog. In researching it, most vets say it is not a problem when used in moderation…… I wasn’t too worried. Besides, my Vet said she was about 5 pounds too light so we needed to gain a bit of weight anyway. I trained Sissy all the way out of her shell of shyness (for the most part) using dry roasted peanuts (of all things). Who would of thought, but it worked. Later, she learned to like Cheerios. So now we switch back and forth between peanuts and Cheerios. She has nearly gained the 5 pounds the Vet wanted and is in perfect condition according to him. So now we will just try to maintain that weight.

Sissy’s Therapy Dog Graduation Certificate


Sissy has gone through the therapy dog classes, has her certificate and is now completely signed up and visiting all 4 Boulder County hospitals. She also passed her Therapy Dogs, Inc. test and observations and is now officially a registered therapy dog. Sissy-Biskit and her dad are a registered team together and we are having a great time following some of Tilda’s old routes and meeting her friends of the past while introducing Sissy to a wonderful new life for her. Most people that knew Tilda remark how much Sissy is like Tilda in her manner, her calmness and her demeanor. I certainly agree with that and will take it one step farther. I think Tilda picked out Sissy for sure and probably has imprinted some things on Sissy in ways that are certainly mysterious to me, but am convinced it is true. More on that later.

Sissy-Biskit is visiting at these hospitals on the following days:

Avista Hospital, Louisville, 2nd & 4th Thursdays

Boulder Community Hospital, Boulder, 1st, 3rd & 5th Wednesdays

Exempla Hospital, Lafayette, 1st, 3rd & 5th Thursdays

Longmont United Hospital, 2nd & 4th Tuesdays

So we visit two days per week which is about Sissy’s limit for getting started. She is doing very well and I am so proud of how far she has come. One thing for sure, from here on it will get better and better as she gets to know the buildings and some familiar faces. Her transition from “fear of going outdoors” to a dog that is coming into her true personality is an amazing story in itself. Every week I took her to the antique stores I visit in Fort Collins and there she would walk with me through the stores, meet the owners each week and just mingle. Week by week it got better and better, but a very slow process. Then one day, our good friend Franny gave Sissy a squeaky toy. At first she didn’t quite know what to do with it. After a few days, it became Sissy’s “property” and I noticed she acted like she was trying to herd the toy as if it were a sheep. Her being part Border Collie, I understood that natural

Sissy-Biskit herding her stuff toys

instinct so I bought her a dozen squeaky toys over a few weeks. THAT WAS IT!!! She started playing with those toys……..ever so tenderly. She treats them as her babies that she rounds up and stacks them in a pile, then she claims them as her own. Then I found a flea market with some good used stuff toys and got Sissy a bunch more. She doesn’t need squeaky toys, just stuffed toys will suffice as all she wants to do is herd them and carry them home. She handles them so carefully that she still has her very first toy from Franny in perfect condition. She does not tear at them, just mouths them and carries them around, but they have to be in a pile. The most fun thing with Sissy is to sit on the floor and toss them all over the house and she will round them all up and build the pile again. Pretty cute.

The side benefit of this stuffed-toy-herding was something I didn’t expect. Doing this herding gave her confidence that she could put things in order and satisfy her stronginstincts at the same time. Week after week, I could see her confidence level greatly increase. At the same time, I did the same thing with Sissy that I did with Tilda. I kept her with me all the time, 24 hours a day. She goes everywhere with me, never is left alone at home. She is either at home with me laying on her rug by the computer, or she is in the truck with me in Tilda’s back seat bed, or she is walking with me somewhere and doing

“These babies are my little sheep, hands off!”

something. That created a bond which in turn created some trust. Then she began to look at me for guidance when venturing to new areas she normally would have been in a panic over. Sissy-Biskit has come a very long ways and continues to get better with each new day. Her true personality is now coming forth and she is a fun-loving dog who is very quick and smart. It looks to me like Sissy’s life has finally started and she is now nearly 6 years old. But that is okay, at least we have a start and she is absolutely the greatest dog this old man could ever hope for. She has no bad habits and is the true meaning of a “loyal sidekick dog” and a true friend. She never gets tired of going places and now is really into that excitement. When it is time for her walk, she stands up alongside my chair and takes her leg and pounds me on the shoulder repeatedly until I give in and put her leash on. This dog now walks with the leash wrapped around her neck while walking along side of me. We can walk a mile or two without difficulty of any kind……….she loves it. She does tricks along the way and is so happy, it brings tears to my eyes some days. Let me tell you, it is a long way from the first day of our 55 feet walk of torture for both of us.

I will always believe sweet Tilda brought me Sissy. Tilda knew me better than anyone and she picked a new dog that fits every need I have. I am also convinced, as I said earlier, that somehow Tilda did some imprinting on this new dog. How all that works I am not sure of at all, but I see the results of it and they are unmistakeable. As times goes by, Sissy’s attitude and demeanor is more like Tilda all the time. There were certain traits which were unique Tilda traits that Sissy now does and without any initializing or encouragement from me. It is just the way things are. Over time, I have learned to simply accept it and not question it. Much more fun that way! Sissy is not Tilda, Tilda is not Sissy. They are uniquely individual dogs with lots of overlap and similarities that will make ones jaw drop during some moments of the day. Rather than bore you will all the details of it, I will simply share one example with you:

Tilda used to lay by my side while I worked at the computer (so does Sissy). Over the years of us walking together up the steps to the upper level of the house, I trained Tilda to lay down across the very top step of the last flight of stairs. There I would give Tilda a body

Tilda doing her Top Step for massage time

massage and she just loved it while groaning and grunting the whole time. After several dozen times of doing this maneuver, Tilda began doing it most every time we walked up those stairs…….especially at dinner time as that is when she knew I would stop and take the time to give her a body massage. Now Tilda died on August 24 last year and am sure you all remember that time very well. 61 days later we met Sissy, which was rather fast, but I knew Sissy was the dog I wanted immediately when I saw her. It was not only because of her looks or demeanor, it was mainly because of what I felt inside. It about 3 weeks after we brought Sissy home that a very strange thing happened. I was walking upstairs for dinner and Sissy was hopping up the stairs in front of me when at the SAME TOP STEP, Sissy did a quick left turn and

Sissy doing the Top Step on her very own

plopped down sideways on the top step and laid in the exact same position that I had trained Tilda to do. I did not touch Sissy previous to this……….never showed her anything. Sissy did all this on her own at nearly the same time of day, same step, laying in the same position. This is far from a coincidence and it was actually a bit frightening to me the first few seconds as Sissy just laid there and looked at me deep into my eyes. I then came to my senses and called Donna over to look at what Sissy was doing and we both cried happy tears as we felt the love of Tilda like it was coming from a blast furnance. This event was less than 3 months after Tilda died so you can imagine how powerful it was to witness Sissy doing that procedure all on her own.

The great news is Sissy and I still do that top step procedure and I get to hear the same grunts and groans that Tilda always gave. I thought I had remembered taking a picture of Tilda in that position on the top step and using that picture in a Tilda Dog Blog one time. The reason I took the original Tilda top step picture is that it took me a while to train her to do this and thought is was unique and quite an accomplishment. I found the picture and it is posted here. The wonderful thing is I had the camera near that top step as I was taking some other pics of Sissy the night before so I snapped a picture of Sissy laying on the top step. Look at the two pictures for yourself and see what you think. Keep in mind that it took Tilda quite some time to learn that trick. Sissy did it on her own as a total surprise to me. Look at the position of the legs of both pictures and other similarities. This is only one example of what has been going on. Very fun stuff for sure and no complaints from this fellow.

All I can think to say is Thank You, Tilda…………Thank You, Sissy-Biskit!

‘Til Next Time………………..


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A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To ………..

Quick update on Sissy-Biskit:  Sissy is doing just fine and enjoying her rounds at the Boulder County hospitals. She has had one unique experience already causing me to shake my head in amazement, but that is all I have managed to catch so far during an official visit, that is. She is such an active dog and moves between visits like something just short of the speed of light. She is already learning the routes and knows the next stop. We settled on tempting her with Cheerios breakfast cereal as treats. She loves those a lot so her visits are rewarded with the person being visited feeding her some Cheerios. Sissy is about at her

Sissy Says: These little sheep are all mine!

correct weight now (so says her Vet) so we are being careful to keep her in tip-top shape. Just like Tilda, Sissy has lots of good visits and then some visits she could care less about and is ready to move on quickly.

Sissy is now a professional Stuffed Toy Herding Dog. I developed the title, Sissy does the work! She is simply amazing how she takes such good care of her stuffies……she still has her first one and it is without damage as are the other 30+ stuffies. They are all her babies. She herd’s them into a pile and then wraps her self around the pile or buries herself in the pile. Her favorite thing is for me to pile all the stuffies on top of her. Then she goes to sleep as everything is calm and okay.  She knows them all by scent and can quickly pass over the pile with her nose and immediately knows if one is missing.  If there is, she will go on the “herd” to find it and bring it back to the pile.

Tilda’s Friend Tara wrote a letter that she wants to share:

I wanted to share with you that we believe that our first black lab, Sam, picked out Buddy for our family. Sam was very sick his whole life, and we lost him when he was just 8 years old. We got Buddy 6 months after Sam died, and some of the coincidences and similar behaviors between Sam and Buddy are just uncanny, similar to what you describe  in Tilda’s Blog!

My family always said that Sam would have been an incredible therapy dog, but unfortunately he was VERY dog aggressive (probably because of the numerous medical issues he suffered as a puppy and an adult), so we never pursued therapy work with Sam. But this missed opportunity with Sam was absolutely the motivation for me to put Buddy and myself on the wait list for Boulder Community Hospital.

Sam also helped us to train our little Stellaluna, who was a real wild child when she was

Stella is a very pretty girl!

a pup (we actually chose Stella because she was so fearless, we knew we needed a dog with a personality like hers to get along with our Sammy). Many of Stella’s behaviors today are ones she learned from her big brother. I have Sam to thank for getting my Dad and I involved in therapy dog work, and for guiding us to our sweet Stella and Buddy. Isn’t it amazing the lasting effects that our dogs have on our lives, even years after we have to say goodbye?

Anyway, I just wanted to thank you for sharing your experiences with Sissy on Tilda’s Blog. This one really stuck a chord with me, thank you!


Note: Sissy had a most interesting visit with Tara in a parking lot one day a couple weeks back. It was the first time they met and those two fell in love immediately and it looked to me like they were having private conversations between them. That was very touching and sweet plus it caught my attention as Sissy was really moving into Tara with purpose.

And then there were the Butterflies:

For many years now, I have spent a great deal of time working with antiques and collectibles specializing in clocks, vintage movie equipment, typewriters, etc. One thing about that industry, you get to meet a lot of wonderful people who are associates doing the same thing with other items or customers interested in similar things. One of those people is a lady named Linda Najjar who is also one of Tilda’s Friends. Linda and I go back a few years when we were both collectible dealers and rented space in a local collectible store. Linda has since become a published author writing short stories of her real life experiences. Recently, she wrote one that involved Tilda and myself several years ago. This story really happened exactly as she described and it is reprinted here with her permission:


© Linda Najjar January 18, 2012

After my mother died I inherited her collection of vintage costume jewelry. Treasure hunting at garage sales was her weekend sport for fifty years and she loved to show me all the stuff she’d found. To revisit our good times together I sorted through boxes of baubles and bangles she’d collected. The memories of my mother were dear to me, not the items themselves, so I kept only a few items to remind me of her, ones that I would like to wear and I decided to sell the rest of her collection. I rented a display case at a local antique mall and filled it with her great finds.

One sunny summer morning I stood in my garden of ripening apples and pears, and I smelled the sweet fragrance of roses and lavender. The multitude of butterflies around me inspired me to pull out all Mom’s jewelry with a butterfly motif. A pewter box with a butterfly on it, an inlaid butterfly ring, filigree butterfly earrings, a butterfly cloisonne pin, and butterfly necklaces. Mom loved butterflies!

After pricing each one I arranged these butterfly themed pieces on a black foam core board. I wondered if I should add a title of “vintage Butterfly Jewelry” but saw that all these butterflies spoke for themselves. I then covered the display with butcher paper and white plastic bags to insure its safe transit across town in my car.

At the antique mall I carried in my wrapped up display like I was delivering a pizza. Daryl, a fellow dealer, shouted from behind the counter in his booming six foot tall voice, “Well, Hello, Butterfly!” I stopped in my tracks, or, rather, I hovered mid-flight. There was no way Daryl could have seen what was inside my carefully wrapped package!

I’d never heard Daryl call anyone “Butterfly” and I’d never been called “Butterfly” by anyone! “What’s wrong,” he queried, “Don’t you like being called ‘Butterfly’?” When I asked him if he was in the habit of calling people “Butterfly” he said that he couldn’t recall ever calling anyone that. Stunned, I said, “Daryl, look at this.” and I dramatically unwrapped my package on the counter in front of him. His eyes widened when he saw all the butterfly jewelry. “Stop it! You’re frightening me,” he said. “Me?” I responded, “You’re the one who’s reading my mind!”

The owner of the shop came over and noticed a Sarah Coventry butterfly necklace on the display that she said was just like the one she’d worn as a young girl. The next day she called to tell me that a woman came in and purchased that same necklace. “But wait,” she said, “Daryl has another butterfly incident to tell you about.” Daryl took the phone and told me his story.

At lunchtime he drove home to let out his dog, Tilda. After she did her duty, she abruptly and uncharacteristically turned 180 degrees and raced under a pine tree like she was chasing after a rabbit. Instead, a Monarch butterfly flew out. Tilda then calmly sat back on her haunches to watch the butterfly in flight, as if that’s what result she had intended! Daryl said that this behavior was completely odd for the dear old girl. She has a sweet disposition and is built round like a barrel, so she doesn’t turn quickly and has never been known to rouse a butterfly!

Then as Daryl stood about twenty feet from the pine tree, he watched in disbelief as Tilda’s Monarch winged its way directly towards him. The butterfly landed on his right shoulder and stayed there, he swears, for about forty five seconds!

Butterfly events kept arising for awhile. A man brought a large butterfly specimen to the antique mall. After chatting with him for awhile he said he’d moved here from a small town twelve hundred miles away. It was the same town I was planning on moving TO in a few weeks. He warned me against moving there, but I ignored his warnings and went ahead with my plans to move there. I moved away from that town within two months. Before these butterfly events I never had experienced clustering of synchronistic events. And Daryl had his own experience of other butterfly synchronicities.

My mother and Daryl’s mother both died about a year or so before these occurrences. Both of these women loved butterflies. Could it be as we suspect? Did our mothers get together in spirit to send us a message? Did they synchronize a symphony of butterfly events as a grand “Hello! We love you!”? And did Daryl and I experience a form of thought transference? Did Daryl pick up an aura or imprint of “Butterfly” around me?

And what about Tilda? Was she just uncharacteristically chasing a Monarch or was she inspired by a nudge from our mothers on the other side?

Linda Najjar

Now that moving story has another beautiful note to it. After the butterfly left my shoulder, it fluttered about here and there and landed in a flowerbed on the other side of our house. About the only flowers blooming in that flowerbed were Zinnias and they were my mother’s favorite flower. The butterfly landed there quietly and was flexing its beautiful wings back and forth as they do. I turned and ran to the house to get the camera and when I returned the butterfly was still there. I snapped some pictures and then it lifted off and flew straight up and away. I never saw it again that day. You can view the butterfly picture here and think you’ll agree it was pretty special.

Tilda’s Butterfly

Now, since that butterfly moment there was another butterfly incident with another one of Tilda’s Friends in Utah recently whose name just happens to be “Linda” also. I will call her Linda S. as I didn’t ask her permission to use her name. Linda S. is a past customer who evolved into a dear friend some years ago and we have stayed in touch all this time as there appears to be some sort of connection between us that neither of us understand. When Linda lost her mother recently, the butterfly thing came back big time and it ended up becoming a very important part of Linda’s life for a few months and it all stacked up to be just a bit more than simple coincidences. So it appears to me that there are some mothers somewhere who are having a great time throwing the butterfly themes at us.

Whatever it was, I appreciate it, Mom! Thanks for checking in. And Tilda, thank you for the awesome rainbows……..they were wonderful!!!!

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Sissy-Biskit & Tilda…………..One Year Later!

Sissy-Biskit 2012

Sissy-Biskit, Donna and I made the pilgrimage to Laramie and Cheyenne, Wyoming on Saturday, August 4th, 2012. It was a couple days short of one year when Tilda, Donna and I made the trip on August 6th, 2011. That was the trip when Tilda really didn’t want to get back in the truck after laying in the grass in the city park in Laramie. The air was very cool in Laramie a year ago and Tilda was really enjoying the cool air on her bumpy skin. That trip with Tilda to Laramie was during the last 3 weeks of her life and she enjoyed it immensely. Her skin was always so hot from the Mast Cell tumors and when I would throw a cold wet towel over her back a big smile would arrive on her face. She especially liked the towel at the city park that day.

Sissy & Donna visiting Tilda’s favorite spots, August 4, 2012.

I am quite sure that Tilda made the trip last weekend with us. She hitched a ride with Sissy as she always does, yet she allows little Sissy to be herself. It is a very wonderful thing to observe and I see the phenomenon now and then almost every day. Tilda is not near ready to give up on any of us yet, but we are not complaining and cherish every moment. That attitude might sound a bit strange for some, but very easy to understand when one gets to experience it first hand as we have. All dogs have unique traits that you witness day in and day out and know that only they can do these things. It is their personality and their demeanor. But when you see those personal and private traits being re-enacted by another dog in the same precise manner without being trained or coaxed, it simply takes your breath away. I used to think I was probably dream wishing or fantasizing, but soon learned that I wasn’t. It is real and I love it.

The date of Friday, August 24th marks ONE YEAR since Tilda passed. For those of you that have Tilda’s calendar, you will see the date is identified. The August 2012 calendar picture of Tilda brings back lots of great memories with her. She just love fruits and veggies and her favorites were broccoli and pineapple. She had this wonderful stare and if she could hold it long enough, her thoughts would finally get my attention as they penetrated. That dog knew how to “reach into a person” and get her point across and guess that is why she was so remarkable as a therapy dog.

Little Sissy-Biskit is doing great as a therapy dog. She is now working all 4 Boulder County

Tilda & Donna at one of Tilda’s favorite spots in Wyoming, August 6, 2011.

hospitals and she also stops by a new assisted living center for Alzheimer’s patients in south Longmont every Friday afternoon. I already have a whole backlog of great stories to tell about Sissy’s visits, but there simply isn’t any time to write about them these days. Normally, Sissy is a very quick visiting dog. She doesn’t like dog treats very much unless they are homemade and contain peanut butter (well, excuse me…….such a picky little girl). But I found out by accident several months ago that she loves Cheerios so I carry a waist pouch on my side when we are visiting and I put some in the patients hands so they can feed Cheerios to Sissy-Biskit. She has a very soft touch with her mouth and the kids just love it and giggle delightfully until I have to laugh myself. For the small children, Sissy learned from Tilda that a doggie has to get down on the floor and lay on their side so the kids can pet the dogs tummy and rub her side. Sissy loves it and I can tell her favorite child is a small girl around 3 to 5 years of age………..exactly like Tilda.

Tilda under the tree at Laramie City Park August 6, 2011

Sissy at the Laramie City Park in the same spot under the tree, August 4, 2012.

Sissy isn’t as tolerant as Tilda was when visiting……..she is always happy and loves to meet, paws up on the knee or on the bed (very gentle and sweet) and then she goes into this “where are my Cheerios?” thing and after eating the snack it’s on to the next person as if to say “thank you very much and have a nice day, but I have other people to see now”. The Border Collie friskiness in Sissy really shines when we visit the hospitals. She gets so excited and is memorizing the route. She already knows what corner to turn and which direction. Once in a while she stops, looks left, looks right, looks back………….as if she is lost. Then she looks at me and I will tell her “this way” while I tug the leash in a certain direction and she is off and trotting again. It is pretty darn sweet to watch.

Elaine & Toby, Margaret & Tillie, Daryl & Sissy working at The Dog Posse.

On another subject, recently a small group of therapy dog teams at one of the hospitals started an enjoyable adventure called “The Dog Posse”. Normally teams visit one team at a time during a certain scheduled time at the hospital. However, several of the experienced teams got together and accidentally stumbled across the idea of doing a “flash mob therapy dog visit” to the hospital on a weekend day when no other teams were scheduled. Sissy just loves doing this event as do the other good dogs. We still observe all the rules and only visit one dog per patient at one time, but the patients and staff get to see 3 or 4 dogs…….one right after the other which is a lot of fun for everyone including the teams doing it. This certainly is the next level of therapy dog visiting as it requires extreme concentration on the part of the dog handlers while at the same time participating in the excitement that this concept brings about.

Sissy tries so hard. Now and then she has some quiet moments with a person and it is very eye catching to watch. She has learned that she can crawl up on the bed or on a sofa and lay/sit beside someone and just hang out. She is not allowed to do that at home so it is amazing how quickly these dogs learn what is permissible away from home. Sissy’s best visits have been on a sofa or bed curled up beside someone that needs a bit of special loving that day. Last Friday, there was an elderly lady in a wheel chair in her room who wouldn’t go outside the room and was being anti-social with a very negative attitude. The

Sissy hanging out with some Tilda Friends jabbering about old times.

attendant pushed the wheel chair along side the bed and I asked Sissy to get up on the bed beside the wheel chair…….and she did. Sissy had her front legs/paws hanging over the side of the bed so the lady started petting Sissy’s legs. The petting stroke was very much a repeated rhythm, stroke after stroke and all of a sudden I could see the lady wanted to say something as her lips were trying to form a word. I asked the lady if Sissy had soft legs and she immediately replied “Yes, very soft”. The lady then asked me how old Sissy was……..and the conversations began. Within a couple minutes the lady was talking NON-STOP and suddenly became so excited about her day. She asked me lots of questions and soon was telling me all about her dogs of the past. Then the lady talked directly to Sissy telling her all about the dogs she has had and Sissy was motionless just looking at the lady’s eyes and listening. The most touching part was when the lady told Sissy “my favorite dog is named Lucy and I can’t find her. Some people tell me she died, others tell me she is still alive…..but I can’t find her. Sissy, if you see Lucy will you please tell her where I am so she can find me?” At this point, as you might well imagine, the attendant that was in the room with me totally lost it and had to walk out for some Kleenex. I was concentrating on Sissy to make sure she was okay, but my eyes were getting blurred with water also. I tried to fight it back as Sissy is my concern and she trusts me to look out for her. Sissy was fine and this conversation went on for around 30 minutes and the lady never quite stroking Sissy’s paw/leg. That is the longest visit Sissy has ever done and she still was in no hurry to get up and leave. So something was going on there and it was all GOOD for sure. I found out later this lady is 97 years old and is a native Coloradoan.

The attendant came back in the room and asked the lady if she wanted to join some other people out in the community area and watch TV and play some games. The lady responded “yes, that would be fun” so away they went. I got up off the bed and so did Sissy. Sissy looked at me as if to say “did I do okay, dad?”. I spoke out loud telling Sissy that she did great!

Thank you, Sissy! Thank you, Tilda! Wow! I love these dogs!

‘Til Next Time…………………..


Tilda and Donna in Wyoming August 6, 2011.

Sissy and Donna in Wyoming, August 4, 2012

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Doc & Tilda and Sissy-Biskit Too!

Doing therapy dog work is always rewarding, but it was Tilda Dog who taught me to watch for the special moments and cherish them as one of the most precious treasures of life. I have a great example to share with Tilda’s Friends in this writing which demonstrates the powerful connection that therapy dogs can bring about. It is so easy to miss these tiny moments, but without a doubt I will carry them with me forever.


Tilda entertaining the children

When Tilda first started working as a therapy dog at Avista hospital in Louisville, Colorado, she was about the 2nd active dog team visiting the facility as that therapy dog program was just getting ready for a rebirth. One day a very nice lady named “Ann” saw us in the hospital hallways and invited us up to Dr. Nelson’s Pediatric office to visit with staff and patients in that area. Tilda really enjoyed it as there were children, treats and lots of fun. She loved laying on the floor on her side while the kids rubbed her belly. She also loved demonstrating her tricks for the kids such as “high five”, “high ten” and “high twenty”. The children enjoyed it very much and some actually thought she could count. In the pediatric office area, it is always filled with wonderful sounds of joy and exuberance and the crowded little hallway between the exam rooms is filled with staff, children and parents all enjoying the antics of that scenario. Tilda always was given treats from the staff of Brenda and Ann, then the children had their turn so it was an event for Tilda (and myself of course). Dr. Nelson was always busy with patients, but he showed lots of tolerance and understanding working around and through the crowd in the hallway to get to his next patient examination room.

Then one day, Dr. Nelson himself gave Tilda a treat and from that day on, it became a tradition that Dr. Nelson would always give one treat to Tilda and then went back to his patients. Tilda looked forward to that moment and anticipated it on every visit. Of course she would sit pretty like a little soldier when Brenda or Ann were feeding her treats. Those were golden moments for Tilda.

Tilda visited this office every week for a good long time, but then day came when Tilda was not able to visit anymore due to her illness. However, Tilda was followed by many, many good therapy dogs that were fast coming into the Avista program and we led them all in the direction to Dr. Nelson’s office on the second floor so they could do their magic with the dogs and visa-versa. All the dog handlers simply love going to Dr. Nelson’s office and the dogs can almost find that office by themselves without the handler I would bet.

Sissy-Biskit wanting a good treat.

Sissy-Biskit wanting a good treat.

Then early in 2012, Sissy-Biskit started visiting at Avista and of course was introduced to Dr. Nelson’s office and the children. Sissy being a lot more shy than Tilda didn’t quite know what to make of all the fuss over the therapy dogs. But over time, Brenda and Ann had Cheerios which Sissy liked very much and started doing her “spins and twirls” for them and the children. The most hilarious part for us humans during this visit time was that Dr. Nelson himself would do the usual appearance with his private dog treat and would give one to Sissy-Biskit. She would spit it out on the floor and didn’t want it. One of us would finally encourage Sissy to eat it, but she simply wouldn’t eat it from Doc. This became somewhat of a comedy between us all, but Dr. Nelson never gave up. He actually purchased other treats that he thought couldn’t miss with Sissy and he finally hit on one that Sissy loved dearly. It was some sort of “meat treat” and Sissy was nuts over it.

Not too long after that day, Sissy had a couple bad incidents in other locations with some very loud sounds and with a male patient who grabbed at her aggressively before I could react. From that moment on, Sissy became fearful of men so we put her in a “leave of absence” mode for 90 days from her regular schedule at all the hospitals. I am still sporadically visiting with her for very short periods at some of the hospitals and at a memory care nursing home in order to build her confidence again.  It is gradually working.

One day in early December, 2012, Sissy-Biskit and I visited Dr. Nelson’s office for the usual fun and fanfare. I was talking with the staff and I noticed Sissy kept pulling and pulling hard on the leash as if she wanted to go to the back of the area. I kept pulling her back and she would turn and pull again. I finally asked if there were any patients in the office today and the answer was “not right now” so I just dropped the leash as I knew Sissy would be fine as she headed back towards Dr. Nelson’s private office. The staff and I finished our conversation in a minute or so and I headed down the hallway. As I turned the corner to Dr. Nelson’s personal office, I saw the most amazing sight. It was one of those moments whereby the image of it speaks a thousand words and will stick in my mind forever. Dr. Nelson was sitting in a chair out in front of his desk with his special treats that Sissy loved so much. He was having Sissy “sit”, “shake”, then come up on his knee all while he encouraged her to nibble the treat out from between his fingers. Sissy’s tail was wagging high with her ears perked and erect. What I saw was a dog and a doc having a very special moment with each other and both were smiling. This from a Doc who had been rejected by Sissy but he wouldn’t give up… and from a dog who was presently fearful of men.

Dr. Nelson giving Santa his Christmas list.

Dr. Nelson giving Santa his Christmas list.

While you may be preparing yourself that this is the end of this story, it isn’t. On December 13th, 2012, several of the Avista therapy dog teams attended the event of Santa Claus coming to Avista to listen to the children’s requests while they sat on his lap. The dogs entertained the children while they waited in line for their turn on Santa’s lap. I was given the wonderful task of taking pictures to document the joyous moments of the children with their eyes as big as saucers with some only peaking at the large white beard out of the corner of their eye. It was adorable. Then all of a sudden, out of nowhere, came Dr. Nelson walking through the crowd and he walked over to Santa and pulled up a seat on Santa’s lap himself as shown in the great photo on this page. I couldn’t resist snapping a photo and as the Doc left I wished him Merry Christmas and shook his hand while saying “I will get this picture to your office soon” and we both had a good laugh.

On December 17th, 2012, Dr. Nelson experienced some serious medical issues and was hospitalized. He passed on out of this life on December 24, 2012. His memorial service is today, December 29th, 2012 and is the reason I stopped everything to document the wonderful moments experienced by Tilda, Sissy-Biskit and all of the dogs in the Avista Animal Helpers therapy dog program who visited his office. While it is a time for some very strong emotions, the memories of it will continue in all of us for a very long time. Hopefully, Dr. Nelson’s office will be able to continue the great pediatric service and the dogs will be able to continue to visit in his honor and as a tribute to an individual we all hold in high esteem.

A special thanks to Brenda and Ann of Dr. Nelson’s office who always welcome and greet the dogs with fanfare and lots of fun.  Thank you, Dr. Nelson!  Your memory is etched inside us for all the good things you’ve done.  Also, a big thank you to all of the Avista Animal Helpers dogs who so graciously dedicate their time and effort to bring smiles to the faces of people needing a break in their day.  Here are a few of the dogs presently doing this wonderful work at Avista (in no particular order): 

Dalton, Buddy (retired), Toby L, Gracie, Bo, Stella, Truman, Jolie, Tillie, Sissy-Biskit, Monte, Comet, Happy, Peaches, DoDa, Duke, Toby H, Jake (retired) and Cadie.

Thank you, Tilda! Thank you, Sissy-Biskit! Thank you both for the moments that sit in this man’s heart forever!

Happy New Year to Everyone!

‘Til Next Time

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